Keeping You Safe: Overburdened purses & backpacks

By Stefano DiPietrantonio – bio |email

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX10) -  FOX19 is keeping you safe.

We all do it, carry around way too much stuff. FOX19 took a big scale over to Fountain Square. We ran into men, women, kids, who were all happy to plunk-down their overstuffed purses, over-burdened briefcases and back-breaking backpacks.

Here is what a local doctor said all that weight was doing to their spines.

"If you have an enormous weight pulling you sideways it is going to affect all of these structures even all the way down to your hips," said Dr. John Roberts, Orthopaedic Surgeon with the Cincinnati Spine Institute. He said we need to downsize, big time.

"You have 20 pounds of books in a backpack on the shoulder," Roberts said. "It's a tremendous strain on your back."

Dr. Roberts said most elementary-age kids and high-school kids are carrying way more than their young spines are designed to handle.

"If you put a ten pound force on it," Roberts said. "You do that to the spine, you put a 20 pound force on it, it does that, you put a thirty pound force on it, it does that."

The spine is a balance of curves and counter curves.

"These balanced curves enable us to stand upright and when you apply forces that take you out of that normal alignment," Roberts said. "It puts a tremendous stress on the spine."

The pressure is on the disks, which have almost no healing capacity.

"I'm afraid that someday we're going to have a lot of very young people with very big back problems," Roberts said. "Once the disk is injured that's pretty much forever."

The older we get, straining to one side, can cause a disk to herniate or bulge out.

"The disk is almost completely gone," Roberts said looking at a patient's x-ray. "They have bone against bone, they are beginning to narrow down their nerve tunnels, this is a very painful situation."

So we placed a scale on Fountain Square and put bag after bag to the test.

"It's just my journal, work journal, papers," Bob McAdams said, rifling through his stuffed briefcase. His had close to 15 pounds hanging on his shoulder. "Does your back feel it later?" we asked. "No, not at all," he said.

April Debban said that her big purse just sort of crept up on her.

"And I looked down one day and I was carrying this ginormous bag!" she said. "How did that happen?", we asked. "I don't know! One day it was just full and big."

She said she is also usually carrying a diaper bag on her other shoulder. She said all the weight does cause her back pain.

"Yeh right here," she said, pointing to just below her neck. "My trapezius muscles right here get a little sore and my back does too."

"Usually I have all my medications all my makeup my hair brush," said Linda Moore.

"Everything in this bag I need," said Vanessa Warner adamantly. "Books, candy an umbrella and a box of cereal in this one." "Now do you need all that?" we asked? "Yes I do!," she said.

He bag came in at 5 and a half pounds. And for Bill Rambo, his computer bag weighed in at about 10 pounds.

"Is there anything you think you can live without in there?" we asked? "Sure!" he said. "If I don't carry the computer my daughter won't have one to use at home for her homework."

Susan Haines said she suffered nearly 25 years. "And I would stuff everything in them so that it was like carrying one big weight and I had shoulder pain from that."

"I have very many necessities in that purse that I have to have with me," said Kay Patten. "There's nail polish, pens, glasses, you always have to have a blackberry," she said.

"Oh the most important thing, my copy of The Constitution," she laughed. "I go nowhere without my copy of The Constitution."

The heaviest bag we saw came in at 15 pounds. Doctor Roberts said the key is distributing the weight evenly. If you're going to carry anything heavy like a backpack, make sure it is hanging on both shoulders. if you don't, Roberts said eventually your back pain will come more often, with less provocation and last longer.

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