Ergonomic Strategies for Using a Briefcase

Effects of Carrying a Briefcase

  • Heavy briefcases worn over one shoulder causes the weight to be distributed unevenly through the back muscles and can constrict blood flow.
  • Heavy briefcases place extra pressure on the nerves of the neck and shoulders and can result in pain in the neck, shoulders, and lower back. Pain may be described as pins and needles, tingling, stiffness, numbness, or tightness.
  • Avoid carrying a briefcase with your thumbs—this might cause excess pressure on the joints in your hands or fingers.

Tips for Selecting the Right Briefcase

  • Consider a briefcase with wheels.
  • Choose a briefcase that is proportionate to your body size and no larger than what is needed.
  • Avoid selecting briefcases made of heavy material such as leather. While it may have more appeal, it adds unnecessary weight. Instead, select a lighter briefcase made of microfiber or nylon.
  • Select briefcases with built-in compartments. This will help with weight distribution.
  • Straps:
    • A briefcase with padded straps will distribute weight more equally across your shoulders.
    • Avoid thin and long straps; straps should be wide and adjustable. Ensure that any pressure caused by the straps does not cause discomfort. 

Tips for Packing Your Briefcase Correctly

  • Make time every evening or morning to review the contents of your briefcase. Remove unnecessary duplicates such as extra pens and notebooks. Only keep the items needed for that day, and leave other items at home or in your car.
  • Consider leaving an extra set of accessories (e.g., power cords and batteries) at your destination to avoid lugging them back and forth.
  • Attach your cell phone to your waist.
  • Always pack heavier items at the bottom and use the built-in compartments to distribute the weight.

Tips for Carrying Your Briefcase Correctly

  • For briefcases with short handles
    • Switch positions frequently to avoid muscle fatigue from overuse.
    • Briefcases with shoulder straps
      • Place the strap over your head and under your shoulder for maximum weight distribution.
      • Square your shoulders and avoid having to lift your shoulders to keep the straps from slipping.
      • Alternate the bag from side to side.
      • Consider resting your briefcase on the floor, counter, or railing when waiting or standing in line, but make sure not to forget it.

 

Links: 

AOTA.org