Woman talking(l+r), Woman with tote bag(c)

Roman Zaiets/Shutterstock @exhaustcd/Tiktok (Licensed)

‘I’m cooked’: Woman warns against tote bags after noticing something about her back

‘What’s wrong with my back?’


Amelie Allen


Look out, tote bag girlies: TikToker Jia (@exhauscd) warns against wearing a messenger or tote bag after the uneven weight distribution potentially misaligned her spine.

Jia begins her video with a public service announcement. “OK, PSA, if you’re a tote bag girl, or if you have been carrying this f*cka** satchel messenger bag religiously, like me, for the past three or four years: get your friend to check the alignment of your spine,” she states.

She goes on to describe when she noticed the perceived misalignment. “I was wearing a tank top the other day, my back was facing my friend, and I go like this,” Jia flexes, bringing her arms up and stretching her shoulders back. “And she goes ‘Stop, stop moving. Stop.’”

Jia explains that her friend called their entire group over to look at her back. “I’m like, ‘What? What? What’s wrong with my back?’ They’re like, ‘Your spine is like err,’” Jia makes a bending motion with her hand to accompany the sound effect.

“Tell me why I’ve been wearing this bag on one shoulder for so long that my back muscles are like, jacked on one side, and my spine is like—aaaaaaaahhhh!” Jia finishes with a whispered scream.

Some commenters were genuinely alarmed by Jia’s experience, while others responded more lightheartedly.

“I was legit just wondering why my left shoulder pops out of place… that has been my purse/tote bag arm for over a DECADE,” one user said.

Another commenter was surprised by the habit. “No way u guys don’t switch shoulders when ur tired,” they said.

A few users jokingly recommended switching the side they wear their bag on for the next few years to balance it out. “I have scoliosis so I always wear a messenger bag in the hopes that it evens me out,” a commenter said.

 Finally, one of the top comments gave up hope altogether, simply stating: “I’m cooked.”

Can wearing a tote bag hurt your back?

A 2023 study published in the journal Orthopaedic Surgery used digital modeling to simulate and examine the effects different bags have on the spine. They found that “unbalanced bag-carrying styles,” like the ones Jia described, generated more stress on the lumbar spine and surrounding muscles. 

“Heavy handbags should be used carefully in daily life,” the study warns.

By contrast, the two-strapped backpack evenly distributed weight and produced less stress on the lower back. However, the study noted that all types of bag-carrying inherently disrupt spinal equilibrium and increase stiffness in the surrounding muscles. As such, backpacks are more of a damage control measure, and may still strain the back.

In an article for Healthline, author Cindy Lamothe consulted experts for tips on how to avoid bag-related back pain. They advised readers to carry lighter bags and alternate which side they carry their bag on throughout the day. Additionally, doing resistance exercises and stretching daily can prevent back pain before it becomes overwhelming.

“Remember to check in with your body,” Lamothe reminds readers. “If you’re continuing to experience numbness or tingling in your hands and arms, or feel your back pain increasing, seek professional help by visiting a chiropractor, orthopedist, or physician.”

The Daily Dot reached out to Jia for comment via TikTok comment and direct message.

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