Thursday, April 14, 2011

I Hurt Myself While Carrying My Laptop

We sometimes see patients come in who haven't had a slip or fall or an accident or have any sudden trauma occur, but instead they complain about pain resulting from every day activities, like running to catch the train, or just carrying your laptop around in a messenger bag.

Up until a few years ago, messenger bags weren't very popular, backpacks with shoulder straps were really the only method of carrying your stuff. As messenger bags became more popular, and more accepted in the workplace, partly due to their ability to not look awkward and out of place with a business suit, we started seeing more patients with neck and shoulder, and hip pain from carrying awkwardly secured loads.

Recently a patient complained of neck pain, while he was running late, with his heavy laptop and a few other items loaded in to his messenger bag. There was no accident, no fall, so sudden impact, just running around Manhattan like most of us do on a daily basis.

Messenger bags are fairly hard to secure firmly against the body, and will pretty much always move around and they require constant adjusting, and most people have a preferred side to carry the load on. Not to rail against messenger bags, but they can be a cause for some serious long term chronic, painful conditions. That said there are some helpful ways that we can modify the behavior of the owner of the bag to reduce the incidence of pain and injury.

What does the bag do to cause pain/ injury?

Well, the messenger bag only has one strap and must carry the load to one side while pulling across the body, this causes the opposite oblique and abdominal muscles to contract much harder and more often than is the load was centered on the body.

The Leg to the side of the bag, must work harder, and required much more hip flexor activity to lift the leg while walking, fighting the load of the bag.

The quadriceps and glute muscle to the side of the bag must work harder when going up stairs and bear more impact when going down stairs.

Bearing the load across the body also causes the opposite trapezius muscle to contract for long periods of time, and also recruits the sternocleidomastoid to the same side and causes them to contract in unison to fight the load.

The load often causes the owner of the bag to "lead with their head", leaning the head forward and out, and may lead to developing Forward Head Posture (FHP).

These misalignments in the body can lead to neck pain, back pain, and over time, lead to postural distortions that can develop in to chronic, painful conditions.

How do I avoid Potential Pain?

Switch it up: Switch between the messenger bag and a backpack, and make sure each is carried sung, and securely

Tighten: Make sure the items inside the bag fit securely, that they don't move around too much, tighten straps, and cords to keep things from moving around too much.

Posture: Pay attention to when you are leaning, or moving in a way you naturally wouldnt, and switch sides, switch between carrying the bad over either shoulder equally.

Train: Make sure you are training your body so that your "core" isnt used to handling awkward loads.

Get Help!

We usually treat neck pain and back pain stemming from carrying awkward loads with a combination of Physical Therapy, Behavior Modification, Chiropractic adjustments, and we also use techniques like Graston Technique, and Gaitscan Analysis to address the surrounding musculature and find other problems with the body that may be contributing to the pain/ injury.

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