Tote-ally unhealthy

The bare bones of the backbone damage that comes with using tote bags

By Jessica Berget, Editor-in-Chief


Tote bags can be cute and casual to use if you’re not carrying much. However, using them too often and too long can lead to serious back, shoulder, and neck problems. And there’s nothing cute or casual about muscle or spine damage.

I used to carry a tote bag around with me everywhere. Since my previous backpack had broken and I was both too stubborn and stupid to get another one, the tote was my catch all for carrying my necessities around on the daily. I practically carried my whole life on my shoulder: my laptop, books, binders, wallet, keys, and extra clothes. I knew carrying something this heavy on my shoulder everyday was not good for my body. I even noticed I would often lean on the side my bag was carried on, but that realization didn’t happen until I read about the harmful side effects of using side bags. After I noticed the discomfort I was experiencing, I took it seriously.

Not only is it uncomfortable at times, it can really mess up your back and shoulders and those precious and vital parts of your body. As reported by ABC News, 85 percent of American students have back problems related to the weight of the bags they carry to class every week. It is noted that the most common discomfort was in the shoulders, lower and upper middle back, and the neck. We know the damage backpacks can do, but what about tote bags? Since they usually sit on our shoulders, we can assume that overtime side bags can also cause significant damage in your shoulders, neck, and possibly curve your back as it puts all the weight on one side. After using my tote bag for about a month, I noticed a significant pain in the shoulder I carried my bag on—a throbbing and dull pain that would come and go. After noticing this, and not wanting to pay hundreds in chiropractic fees in the future, I knew it was time to get a real backpack.

Walking around Douglas College, I notice that many students opt to use shoulder bags as their every day essential. It may seem like common knowledge, but not many people are actually aware of the damage it can do. In an article by Who What Wear, Chiropractor Gopal Cabrera weighs in on the harmful effects of using totes.

“The increased weight of hanging off your shoulder may cause your upper trapezius muscle to start to shrug as your shoulder adapts to the increased load. Since this muscle attaches onto the base of the skull and extends the whole length of your neck, it has the potential to cause not only neck pain but also tension headaches, and over time with increased use can lead to a straightening of the natural backward C-shaped curve in your neck. This change in shape alters the weight distribution of the discs, putting more pressure on the joints leading to inflammation, osteoarthritis, and nerve compression.”

Tote bags can be cute and easy to carry and can be tempting due to such a wide variety of designs and sassy sayings. However, they may also be the main cause of a student’s back and shoulder pain. Instead of using tote bags, get a backpack that distributes weight evenly. Or, if you have to, at least switch sides.