Banner Health McKee Medical Center

SPR 2017

Spirit of Women magazine is a national publication presented to women by hospitals and their physicians. The magazine provides up-to-date, evidence-based healthcare information and promotes our hospitals as leaders in women's health excellence.

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23 On your feet Wearing the wrong shoes can make the situation worse. "Purses and high heels are a very bad combination," says Dr. Mandeep Othee, associate medical director of In-Patient Rehabilitation at Medical Center Health System in Odessa, Texas. Wearing heels can increase the pressure on spinal disks. Eventually, the disks can degenerate and bulge (herniate), and then compress the nerves in your back. In fact, disk herniation is one of the most common causes of low back pain and the leg pain of sciatica, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Take it off You know your purse or diaper bag is too heavy if you find yourself holding your breath when you're lifting it or taking it off, there are red marks on the tops of your shoulders, or you find yourself shifting your weight from foot to foot if you're standing with your pack or bag. Here's what you can do to carry on and help your back, neck and shoulders stay healthy. Weigh in. For starters, figure out exactly how many pounds you typically carry. Weigh your backpack, briefcase, purse or diaper bag with what you usually have in it. Whatever you're carrying, "it shouldn't be more than 10 percent of your body weight," McLurkin says. If you weigh 140 pounds, for example, you shouldn't carry more than 14 pounds. "I've weighed patients' purses and they're 16 pounds," she says. Little things such as a book, an iPad and a wallet full of change can add up. What can you live without? "Pare your purse down like you're an ultralight hiker on the Appalachian Trail," McLurkin says. If you must carry something heavy in your purse just temporarily, "make sure you don't wear high heels at the same time," advises Dr. Othee. Fix your form. Whatever makes the cut, be sure the load in your purse or bag is positioned at the bottom. Also, "your bag should be worn close to your body," says Dr. Othee. The less distance between your torso and what you're carrying, the better for your back. If you use a backpack, which is a style McLurkin prefers because it frees up your arms, wear both straps. If you carry a bag with shoulder straps or you use a crossbody/messenger bag, carry it on alternating sides to avoid traumatizing the same muscles. "On Monday, carry it on your right side. On Tuesday, carry it on your left side," McLurkin says. Roll with it. Instead of a purse or backpack, consider using a rolling bag. "I recommend a roller bag because it doesn't produce neck or back pain," Dr. Othee says. One caveat: The rolling bag should have a handle that's proportional to your height. If you're tall, make sure you can maintain an upright posture. "The handle has to be long enough so that you don't have to bend forward to use it," McLurkin says. Look for a rolling bag that also has sizeable wheels, which creates a more stable base so your load won't be inclined to shift around as you're walking. S GET STRONG Strengthening your shoulders and your core muscles (your abdominals, back and muscles around your pelvis) can make you more resilient and less susceptible to carrying hazards. Physical therapist Amy McLurkin recommends practicing these three simple moves regularly: • Bridge: Lie on your back on the floor, with your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent. Raise your hips off the floor to form a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Pause, then slowly lower your midsection back to the floor. • Reciprocal arm and leg lifts: On the floor, lie on your stomach and lift your opposite arm and leg without arching your back excessively. Switch to your other arm and leg. • Corner stretches: Stand in the corner with your forearms on either wall and your head facing the corner. Step into the corner. You should feel a stretch across your chest and the front of your shoulder. Taking regular exercise classes that work these areas, such as Pilates or yoga, can also help if you have back pain from carrying a heavy bag. "But if it makes it worse or your pain doesn't get better, see a physical therapist," McLurkin recommends. "You need to see someone who can pinpoint the problem."

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