Make a conscious effort to keep both shoulders pulled down and level. “Many women instinctively lift and tense the shoulder that has the handbag on it,” says Prather. This only exacerbates the tendency to have short, weak muscles between the shoulder blades, which can be the first to flare up. If you talk on your cell phone while carrying a bulky bag, your neck and back will be doubly stressed by the ear-to-shoulder muscle tension. A wireless headset for walking and talking is a better option.
Stretch It Out
When you do feel tension in your neck, shoulders, or back, don’t ignore it. “Take a minute to put the bag down and stretch. If you can’t, at least try to switch positions,” says Prather. Remove the bag from your shoulder and hold it cradled in your arms, like a sack of groceries, for a few minutes. After a long walk with a heavy bag, you should stretch the muscles that run along the sides of your neck. Vaughn suggests this quickie: Look forward and place your right hand on the upper-left-hand side of your head. Gently pull your head down and toward the right, as if you’re trying to make your right ear touch your shoulder. (Go only as far as feels comfortable, and don’t jerk your neck.) Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat on the opposite side. Do this several times throughout the day to keep the muscles limber and to reduce the chance that stiff muscles will lead to a tension headache.