Oversized purses replace backpacks, cause health concerns

0125_purse_thumb_web.jpgWhile backpacks have traditionally been the standard bag for carrying textbooks from class to class, students are now opting to use oversized handbags — and this fashionable way to cart their belongings can lead to health problems.

“Large, heavy bags are what keeps me in business,“ said David Nehring, a physical therapist at the Student Health Center. “Those bags work all of the muscles from the back and shoulders, up to the head.”

Nehring sees the back and neck problems that students develop as a consequence of carrying around too much, regardless of whether it’s in a backpack or a large purse. But there is a difference between the two.

A backpack, because of its ability to more evenly distribute weight, is far preferential to a bag that is carried over one shoulder. “A backpack worn on both shoulders is the best way to prevent problems,” Nehring said. “However, your best option is the use a backpack that rolls behind you, so that the weight is on the ground instead of your shoulders.”

There are other reasons to choose a backpack over a large bag. Some students, like freshman Danielle Root, agree that backpacks are the best choice for those who carry laptop computers with them to school.

“I used to have a big purse that I used for school, but wearing it caused pain,” Root said. “I went back to a backpack because it is easier. I also don’t have to worry about dropping my laptop. It’s more convenient.”

Root has no plans to trade in her backpack anytime soon, and neither does fellow freshman Crystal Vang.

“For the first two days, I carried a big bag, but then it really hurt my shoulders,” Vang said. “So I switched to a backpack.”

Liberal studies senior Robin Rodriguez is temporarily carrying a messenger bag in lieu of her favorite backpack, which she said is falling apart. Rodriguez is undecided as to whether she will permanently stick with the large bag, but said that there are reasons to keep it.

“I have the messenger bag right now and it’s easier to get into than a backpack,” Rodriguez said. “It’s cute, too.”

For some, the temptation to stuff every textbook and binder they have into a backpack is too great. For these people, switching to a large purse forces them to carry less.

Former backpack devotee Kristin Starkweather, a sophomore theatre major, said she stopped carrying her backpack because the amount of books she put into it was hurting her shoulders.

“I was putting everything in my backpack,” Starkweather said. “I just stuffed everything in the back.”

Things are a bit more comfortable now, she said, since she cannot put textbooks into her large bag.

Nehring said people who carry large bags can expect pain in their shoulders, even the shoulder that doesn’t bear the weight of the purse. “Constantly keeping a large purse or backpack on one shoulder will cause more pain there, but it can even cause pain on the other side,” he said. “The non-dominant side will do stabilization work, which can cause problems.”

As a part of Fresno State’s Wellness Challenge, once a week, Nehring will present a series of one-hour seminars on back problems, beginning in February. Students who participate in the Wellness Challenge will be eligible for various prizes, including a cruise. More information on the Wellness Challenge, including registration, is available at www.csufresno.edu/wellness.

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