Monday, December 05, 2011

Back Pain, Women and Traveling: 4 Tips for Carrying your Laptop Around

We see all sorts of people, from athletes to soccer moms, who suffer from chronic back pain. One group that stands out is the often traveling businesswoman. Traveling and how it can lead to pain and discomfort quite easily has been covered extensively on this blog before, but we've come to see a correlation between businesswomen who have developed chronic back pain, and their most important piece of luggage: The Laptop.

Not paying attention to posture, and awkwardly carrying around luggage, and laptop bags can lead to chronic back pain, injuries to the muscles, and intervertebral discs. These issues can lead to sciatica, bulging, or herniated discs.

Women on average have smaller frames and less muscle mass than men, and a light laptop being carried around can be an entirely different load on a woman versus a man of the same type of occupation and travel routine. Even thin and light laptops can weigh between five and seven pounds. 

So think about it, better yet grab a light dumbbell, stick it in your pocket and walk around for a few hours. Sounds kind of nuts doesn't it? Well thats what its like to carry a laptop around, and most people have a separate laptop bag, which probably has a few pounds of stuff in in already aside from the computer, and most likely, a back up battery and a charger. 

Pretty soon, that 5 or 6 pound laptop along with the bag and all the accessories is coming in at 10 to 12 pounds, often more. Since most people refuse to carry a backpack these days, their messenger style bags are mot built to load the spine properly. Thats also how you should think about it, your spine, not your shoulder is carrying that load and its only loading one side of the body. combine that uneven loading with ergonomically awful airplane seats, the lack of a consistent sleep cycle and the stress associated with travel, and not having back pain seems like an exception. 

Here are a few tips to avoid developing pain, wether its in the lower back, upper back, neck or shoulders. 

1. Flexibility
Being able to move a joint through its entire range of motion is very, very important. Not having any structural misalignments and postural deviations due to tight, or short muscles is going to go a long way in helping you avoid chronic pain and discomfort. 
Take some time to stretch once a day especially if you're traveling a lot. A good warm up before stretching is also recommended. 

2. Strength
Being strong is going to help you keep your body healthier and pain free longer. Make sure you are strength training properly, and find a qualified expert to help you identify and strengthen weak points. Women can benefit greatly from resistance training due to the resulting increase in bone density. The nervous system is also trained in addition to the muscles and that leads to better neuromuscular efficiency. 

3. Proper Loading
If carrying a messenger style bag is casing you to have bad posture and just plain adding to your discomfort, do yourself a favor, get a backpack. Get a good backpack. This will allow you to carry the weight across both shoulders and load your spine properly.

4. Carry your computer bag in your hand
Carry the bag in your hand and make sure you switch hands often. This way you can distribute the work involved to each side and not cause overuse injuries either spinal erector and oblique. 

As always, make sure you consult with a doctor before following any advice, and if you want to talk to a back pain expert, find a good chiropractor and/ or physical therapist and get consulted.