Tuesday, February 22, 2011

“Murses” Burden Men’s Backs, Causing Brutal Pain

Pain-PourriSporting a weighty male version of a purse — colloquially called a “murse” — may be a growing fashion fad for gents but it can cause poor posture and serious back and shoulder pain, according to the British Chiropractic Association (BCA). Their report would seem almost humorous were it not for the fact that 3 in 5 men are toting a bag of some sort these days and two-thirds of men suffer from pain that may be due at least in part to their man-bags.

Trendsetters such as soccer star David Beckham, rapper Jay-Z, and popular actors Brad Pitt, Robert Downey Jr, and Hugh Jackman have all been spotted carrying the functional fashion accessory that the BCA claims can be brutal for backs. According to the BCA report [PDF here] a man-bag in its various guises — from traditional over the shoulder laptop cases, to messenger bags and satchels — should be used with caution.

Their study showed that the average man-bag weighs up to nearly 14 pounds (6.2 kg), with even the smallest necessities adding up in weight. In the digital age murses are loaded with such essentials as laptops computers, cell phones, iPod/MP3 players, plus there are books, exercise clothing, and lunch — all amounting to a hefty burden if carried on one shoulder for long periods of time, or merely during a commute to/from work. Gone are the days when a man would leave home with just keys and a wallet.

"Man bags could cause back and shoulder pain from prolonged stress, and this could also impact posture" said Tim Hutchful of the BCA. "We need to become more savvy in how we use them, whilst learning to read our bodies and know when we're placing too much pressure on certain points." At a minimum, the BCA recommends alternating the shoulder used for carrying the bag, keeping the bag’s strap short and close to the body, and not carrying the bag for extended periods of time.

We have previously discussed [in an UPDATE here] how poor ergonomics during work or activities of everyday living can result in painful musculoskeletal conditions. This is another example of how repetitive strains and stresses may cause the body to rebel with seemingly intractable pain and suffering, and ergonomic causes are often overlooked in the differential diagnosis of pain etiologies. Besides the man-bags, as featured in this BCA study, women’s overloaded purses have long been associated with neck, shoulder, and back pains, as have children’s chock-full book bags lugged to and from school.

The BCA has devised a simple 3-minute exercise routine and other helpful information — called Straighten Up UK [available here] — for helping to strengthen the spine, improve posture, and avoid pain. The program offers great advice for both adults and kids; however, persons with preexisting pain problems should first consult their healthcare providers.