Every woman knows that how good she looks in her mile-high stilettos comes at an equally high cost – aching feet. But, did you know that high-heeled shoes can also cause back pain? And, that’s not the only culprit in your wardrobe that could be causing your back pain.
• According to the American Academy of Pain Medicine, the leading cause of disability for those under 45-years-old is back pain.
• According to the American Spinal Decompression Association, low back pain affects at least 80% of people within their lifetime. It’s an annual cost of $90 billion in health care expenses, and is second the second leading cause of time loss at work.
• Respondents from a National Institute of Health Statistics survey reported that the most common pain they suffered was low back pain.
How Can Your Wardrobe Cause Back Pain?
Many types of clothing alter or limit your body’s natural range of motion by being too tight, stiff, constricting, or weighted. Others alter your posture or change your gait. In either case, it ultimately causes a strain on your neck, spine, and shoulders. Fashion is fabulous and all, but some choices just may not be worth the health consequences. Here are eight of the worst offenders that you may want to rethink as staples in your wardrobe:
1. Strapped Halter Tops
Oh, how cute and cool for the summer months. Sadly, that cute little strap around the neck is pushing your neck forward and out of its natural alignment. The result is neck strain. This is particularly true for women with larger cup sizes who forgo wearing a strapless bra with the top. The full weight of the breasts are then entirely supported via the neck strap.
2. Pencil Skirts
Sexy, stylish, and sliming… the pencil skirt is a must-have in the working woman’s closet. However, these skirts affect gait by pushing the knees further inward and restricting full range of motion. Over time, this restriction can cause muscle, disc, and ligament damage to the back.
3. Heeled Shoes
Every step you take in a heeled shoe is a slap to the back. Heels change your posture and gait. As you walk in a heel, your toe is hitting the ground first, which isn’t the natural heel-strike of how humans naturally walk. The toe-strike tilts the pelvis and buttocks to compensate, which stresses the lower back by hyper-arching the spine. With prolonged wear, this can eventually lead to sciatica.
Research has shown that the height of heel isn’t the only culprit. The width of the heel also causes back problems. Narrower heels have a smaller surface area to hold the entire weight of the body. The narrower the heel, the more it throws off your balance and stability.
Tip: Wedges and sneakers are a better alternative when walking distances or standing for extended periods of time. You can always bring your heels along and slip them on when needed.
4. Heavy Necklaces
Large, bulky, and heavy jewelry pieces are fine in small doses, especially if you’re mindful of your posture – ears up, shoulders back. But, wearing these statement pieces on a daily basis pulls your neck forward and down, which misaligns your body and causes neck fatigue.
According to the American Chiropractic Association, your handbag shouldn’t be heavier than 10% of your body weight. When you think about all that goes into diaper bags, purses, briefcases, and such, 10% doesn’t leave you a lot of room for non-essentials and it sure doesn’t allow most people to fill up a suitcase-like designer bag.
Overloading strap bags can cause stress to you neck and shoulder. Both handbags and bags with a shoulder strap throw off your weight to the side it’s carried, which stresses that entire side of the body from your back to your knees and feet. Your body automatically reacts by hiking up your weighted shoulder and tightening your un-weighted shoulder, which causes universal muscle fatigue and your spine to curve toward the weighted side.
Tips: the wider the strap, the more evenly the weight of the bag is distributed across the shoulder. Backpack configurations carry loads most evenly. Routinely alternate the side you carry handbags or shoulder strap bags.
6. Tight or Skinny Jeans
If your pant is so stiff or tight that it restricts your knees, pelvis, or thighs, then they’re no doubt affecting your gait and posture. You’re likely shifting your spine back as your breathing is more restricted. Restrictive gaits create undue stress on joints because the limited range of motion causes the shock of each step you take to be absorbed improperly or in the wrong places. You sit awkwardly to compensate for too tight jeans. The list goes on, but you get the point that too-tight jeans go beyond just being uncomfortable.
7. Unsupportive Bras
Sleek sexy bras with thin straps may look fantastic on the runway model wearing it all of 15 seconds on her tiny cup cleavage, but for the average woman wearing it all day and supporting a full chest, they’re a recipe for back pain. Thin straps don’t allow for the weight of the cleavage to be dispersed. Instead, the weight centers on the strongest point of the strap – the top of the shoulder. With wear, your shoulder muscles are dragged down and fatigued, which throws off your balance, posture, and gait.
8. Too Tight Shapewear
Note that this is shapewear that’s too tight. When appropriately sized, shapewear actually engages your core muscles and encourages you to use them vs your back muscles. The problem comes when the shapewear is too small and restricts your core and pelvic muscles, which makes you almost completely rely upon back muscles.
Everything in moderation, right? These types of back and neck injuries occur over time and with frequent and prolonged exposure. So, don’t throw your heels out the window or rip your pencil skirt up for dish rags. Just don’t make these back, neck, and spine stressors a staple of your wardrobe that’s worn daily.