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Pain Prevention Tips While Shopping

Pain Prevention Tips While Shopping

pain prevention while shopping

A day of shopping in your favorite stores and buying things you’ve always wanted sounds ideal. But, little do you probably know, many poor shopping habits could cause you to suffer from back pain.

Reasons Poor Shopping Habits Lead to Back Pain

Some not-so-great shopping habits that could cause or contribute to your back pain include the following.

1. Bending and Twisting

While one shopping trip with a lot of twisting and bending won’t definitively cause your spine and back lifelong problems, poor shopping habits can cause back pain. And, if you tend to shop a lot, that’s a lot of wear and tear you’re putting on your back.

You’re not going to rupture a disc by picking up one heavy item. But when you twist and bend at your waist while performing everyday activities — like shopping — repetitively, you increase your risk of developing back pain.

When you twist and bend and then straighten up, you’re putting a great deal of pressure on your back. And, this pressure occurs regardless of whether or not you’re picking something up. It can happen even if you’re bending to look at an item on a low shelf.

Twisting or bending adds pressure on your back, and poor shopping ergonomics for years can contribute to substantial spinal issues later in life. After many years of this lifestyle behavior, you could develop arthritis and disc problems due to the tears and scar tissue. And this contributes to a weaker back.

2. Body Weight

Your body weight, primarily from your waist to your head, can cause a majority of the damage to your lower back from bending and twisting repeatedly.

3. Micro-Tears

Performing abundant activity in a short time without warming up or using proper form can cause micro-tears in your muscles. And, once a muscle cell tears, it’s typically gone for good.

4. Your Purse

When shopping, the type of handbag or purse you’re taking with you matters a great deal, especially if it’s large and you fill it up with a lot of belongings. A heavy bag can also lead to low back pain. It could also cause pain that radiates from the neck and shoulder down your entire back. You should ensure your purse is under 10% of the weight of your body when you fill it.

5. The Wrong Shoes

It may surprise you how much you walk when you’re out shopping. Without even realizing it, you could easily get in a few thousand steps. That’s why wearing the right shoes is so crucial. You wouldn’t wear boots to the gym. They wouldn’t be comfortable.

The shoes you choose to wear while shopping could damage your ankles and feet if they’re not supportive and don’t fit well with all the walking you do, and they could lead to lower back spinal pain.

Flip-flops and high heels are two common culprits. These both cause foot instability, which can affect your back. You have to arch your back when you wear high heels, and can make your spine muscles work harder. Wearing shoes with no back, like flip-flops and sandals, cause you to move your feet from side to side, creating pain because of the uneven weight distribution.

6. Shopping Bags

Another issue that may contribute to back pain is carrying around too many shopping bags. If you concentrate the bags on just one side of the body, it can throw you off balance. It’s not only harmful because you have a higher risk of falling and injuring yourself, but also because it strains your neck and back. While shopping, make sure you’re distributing the bags to both sides of your body evenly to prevent pain while shopping.

back pain from shopping bags

You can’t deny shopping is a daily requirement for a significant portion of the population. Many shoppers transport items like clothing, groceries and other things in plastic bags. But regardless of whether it’s one or both hands, the style of carrying shopping bags will vary between people depending on the shape, weight and type of handles the bags have.

This everyday activity potentially links with risk factors that contribute to developing lower back pain because of compression forces on your lumbar spine, according to a study published in the Journal of Healthcare Engineering. Daily carrying and walking tasks:

  • Lead to spinal shrinkage
  • Could produce abnormal lumbar spine compressive loads because of trunk muscles’ contraction
  • Decrease intervertebral disc height

Overall, the study showed using only one hand for carrying a load puts more stress on your lower back than if you were to transport twice the amount while distributing the purchases evenly between both your hands.

Carrying loads leads to height loss because of intervertebral discs’ compression as well as spinal curvature increase, and this could lead to lower back pain.

Tips to Prevent Back Pain While Shopping

You don’t necessarily need to give up shopping if you follow some pain prevention tips while doing so.

1. Shop When It’s Not Busy

Go shopping during non-busy hours, like early in the morning on weekdays or on weekend evenings — except for Sundays, which are often busy as people get ready for the work week. You’ll also have shorter lines to deal with if you shop during non-peak hours.

2. Use a Motorized Scooter

A lot of grocery stores provide motorized scooters for customers to help them get around. If you don’t see any available, ask the customer service desk if they have a motorized scooter to keep you from having to walk around the store and reduce the amount of bending you do.

3. Have Good Posture

When it comes to chronic back pain, good posture is everything. When walking around and shopping, you might not realize you’re hunching over. When standing, be aware of your spine’s position. Standing up straight helps you avoid straining your spine and prevent more back pain.

4. Wear Good Footwear

It may seem obvious, particularly when you’re shopping, but you should wear suitable footwear: comfortable walking shoes with proper padding and arches. Don’t wear shoes that make your feet hurt. If you wear shoes that don’t have the proper shape, it can aggravate your back.

5. Use Two Large Bags

Bring a couple of large bags with you that have thick plastic handles, but are lightweight. They’re easier on your hands than those with rope or ribbon handles. Use the large bags to consolidate your items, without putting too much into either bag and causing it to be too heavy.

6. Hold Your Purchases in Front of You

While carrying your purchases, hold them in front of you close to your body. Doing this will cause minimal stress on your body. The closer you hold your bags or packages to you, the less stress you’ll experience in your lower back and torso. If your purchase is bulky, the best thing you can do is bring it straight to your car and then continue shopping.

7. Take a Break Every Hour

preventing back pain while shopping

Every hour, take a break. While doing so, try a couple of exercises:

  • Arch your back gently and extend it a few times as far as you comfortably can for around 30 seconds, while placing your hands toward the pockets of your pants.
  • Extend your arms in front of you, keeping your fingers straight and pointing them toward the floor for around 30 seconds. Then repeat, but instead of pointing your fingers, make a fist. This motion helps relieve muscle tension that radiates down your wrists when you hold packages.

8. Shop Online

Buy your purchases online. Make a list of what you need and buy your items online. By doing this, you’ll spend less time wandering through shopping centers with no objective in mind.

9. Don’t Bring Your Purse In

When out shopping, bring only your phone and money with you. Keep your purse in your vehicle to cut the added stress and weight. Purses get in the way and can be surprisingly heavy. If you must bring your bag, lighten it up by packing only the bare essentials.

10. Ask for Help

If you need to buy something oddly shaped, heavy or hard to reach, ask for help. Individuals often don’t ask for help and try to do it themselves.

11. Use Gift-Wrapping Services

Wrapping presents can cause back and neck pain, so take advantage of gift-wrapping services. Many people wrap their gifts on the floor. Your body weight when bending forward affects your center of gravity, taking a toll on your lower back. So, while out shopping, check for gift-wrapping services. You’ll find many at no or low cost.

12. Use a Backpack

Carry a backpack with you to hold your purchases. A backpack will help strengthen your back muscles and will help you avoid moving your shoulders forward. Choose a bag that is small, light and has S-curved straps.

13. Spread Your Shopping Trips Out

While you may be tempted to do all your holiday shopping in one day trip, it could be setting you up for pain the next day. Doing a lot of shopping all in one stretch can make things worse. It’s better to take several shorter and lighter trips to allow you to focus on taking care of yourself properly while you’re out and keeps stress low.

14. Don’t Lift Clothes off the Rack

Don’t take the clothes off the sales rack and hold them in front of you at arm’s length to inspect them. Holding clothes away from your body can make them feel much heavier than they are. It also strains your upper back. Instead, hang the clothing from one end of the rack while inspecting it, or you can drape it over a table.

15. Wear Comfortable Clothing

Make sure you’re wearing comfortable, loose-fitting clothing, too.

16. Bring Along Someone

Bring along a friend or family member with you to help you carry things, which will ease back pain while shopping.

17. Don’t Take Coffee Breaks

Caffeine can cause spasms. If you’re suffering from muscle damage, caffeine can cause the muscles to become inflamed.

Back Pain Treatment After Shopping

While pain prevention while shopping is critical, what happens if it’s too late and you’re already suffering from back pain from poor shopping habits? There are some home remedies you can try to treat back pain after shopping, including the following.

back pain treatment after shopping

OTC Medications

Depending on the severity and type of back pain you’re experiencing, your doctor may suggest over-the-counter pain medicines like:

  • Ibuprofen — Motrin IB, Advil
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Naproxen sodium — Aleve

These can help with acute back pain.

Topical Pain Relievers

Topicals may include salves, ointments or creams you gently rub into your skin at the location of your pain.


When experiencing pain, it can be challenging to get up and move. But, you can help ease back pain with water exercise, yoga, a short walk or some other type of low-impact activity. Exercising can help loosen up your tense muscles and ease discomfort by releasing endorphins, which are your brain’s natural painkillers.

Ice Packs

Ice packs provide you with the most benefit when you use them immediately after an injury, like a strain. You wrap the ice pack in a towel and apply it directly on your back to help reduce inflammation.

The cold of the ice pack might also cause a numbing effect if you’re dealing with intense, sudden back pain. You can also try a bag of frozen veggies or ice covered with a cloth to avoid frostbite to your skin. Hold the ice pack on your skin for 20 minutes and then take a break. Repeat.

Heating Pad

You may also relieve achy or stiff muscles with a heating pad. Be sure you read and follow the directions before using the heating pad, and carefully test the temperature to make sure it’s not too hot.

If you can’t find a heating pad, you can microwave a cloth bag filled with uncooked rice, or use a hot water bottle.

Home remedies should be just fine to relieve minor back pain from shopping, but if you’re experiencing severe or chronic back pain, you’ll want to talk with your doctor. They might recommend stronger medication, physical therapy or other types of treatments. Don’t take any supplements or herbs without first consulting with your doctor, as these aren’t FDA-approved.

Contact Spine INA for Your Lower Back Pain

If you’re experiencing back pain after shopping and home remedies aren’t working, contact Spine INA. Our spine professionals understand how pain can impact your daily routine. We dedicate ourselves to get to know your unique situation and type of pain. You can visit our website for more information on our services and how we can help you treat your pain and improve your quality of life.

We provide minimally invasive treatment options to alleviate your painful spine or back conditions and get you recovered and back to living your life within a few days, on average. Contact us today to learn more and schedule your appointment.

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This content was medically reviewed by Baher Yanni, M.D, on May 22nd, 2019.











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