Extreme Baggage Giant handbags are getting bigger -- and are a growing concern By VANESSA O'CONNELL January 5, 2008 One of the biggest fashion trends of 2007, giant handbags are going even more extreme in 2008. Some of the largest bags, shown by everyone from Louis Vuitton to Chanel and Prada, now measure up to nearly 2 feet in length, the size of a small garbage can. Women might want to start adding aspirin bottles to the enormous bags. Karen Erickson, a chiropractor in New York and a spokeswoman for the American Chiropractic Association, estimates that the number of purse-related injuries and sprains she treats has risen 30% in the past year. "When people come into my office complaining of neck pain, shoulder pain and headaches, I go over and pick up their handbag and give it a weigh test," she says. "It is amazing how heavy they get." Research on kids who carry backpacks suggests they should lug amounts that are no heavier than 10% of body weight. Doctors say the recommended total weight for handbags is far less because of the pressure the bags can cause on one shoulder. Dr. Erickson tells her patients that their fully loaded handbags should weigh no more than 1 or 2 pounds -- although she sees many women who regularly carry 10 to 15 pounds. "The issue with some of the largest purses is their capacity," says Leon Benson, an orthopedic surgeon in Evanston, Ill., who is also a spokesman for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Dr. Benson says he sees lots of women come in with a particular type of tendonitis that causes pain in their shoulders. The remedy typically is labor-intensive physical therapy to rebalance the muscles and reduce inflammation of the tendons, "but the patients don't like it," he says. Kathleen Henson, in Wheaton, Ill., says she's been carrying increasingly larger handbags. In the past year, Ms. Henson, who is 36, noticed that her back was starting to hurt. She began getting muscle stimulation treatments at a local chiropractor and then resorted to visiting a local pain clinic. There, an anesthesiologist gave her five cortisone shots in her shoulders and upper back and told her to lay off carrying heavy purses. Despite this, says Ms. Henson, she's having trouble abandoning the huge bags. She recently bought herself a large red Balenciaga Office bag, which she describes as "very chic and functional because you can fit a lot of stuff in it." She often carries her laptop and a notebook, as well as her BlackBerry, wallet, sunglasses, shoes, hairbrush, makeup, a can of Diet Coke and items for her four kids. Even without the laptop and Diet Coke, the bag can weigh 7 pounds. Kelly Cook, a Los Angeles blogger for Bagsnob.com2, a bag-review site, finds her Yves Saint Laurent Large Downtown bag -- 17 inches high by 11 inches wide -- perfect for toting all her stuff. She fills it up with diapers and formula for her kids, in addition to her wallet, cellphone, charger, camera and makeup. When full, the bag weighs in at about 17 pounds and Ms. Cook, who suffers from chronic back pain, says that's "a big problem." She tries to avoid carrying it by hooking it on the stroller. The bag is so heavy that the stroller tips over if a kid isn't sitting inside it. Kari Schlegel admits to suffering sharp pain in her shoulder from her habitual use. Her new handbag, the YSL Muse, measures 14 inches high and almost 18 inches wide. It gives the 23-year-old Dallas resident enough room to carry everything she needs for the day -- a 20-ounce water bottle, cosmetics, a sweater, a daily planner, an iPhone, a digital camera, three tangerines, a wallet and sunglasses -- but the bag can weigh about 15 pounds. When Ms. Schlegel goes to a chiropractor, once a month or so, the practitioner "gets mad at me whenever I walk in there with my big purse."