Since the days of corsets, women’s fashion has been hard on women’s structural health. One of the most important components of back pain rehab and back pain prevention is to eliminate faulty movement patterns. We have all heard we need to lift with the legs, but most of us are doing things throughout the day that are predisposing the low back to future injury. If wearing high heels, 10 mins a day of stretches, yoga and core exercises can help you avoid injury. Including high heels, here are 9 things women wear that are killing their back!
1. High Heels
Well, duh. But do you know why? Heels change the body’s stance. “There’s a mismatch — women can feel amazing wearing high heels but it’s not that great for them,” says Dr. Kenneth Hansraj, chief of spine surgery at New York Spine Surgery & Rehabilitation Medicine. When you walk in them, you lose heel strike (having your heel hit the ground first), which tilts the pelvis, sticks out the buttocks, and stresses the lower back with very step. Though this creates a visually slimming effect, he adds, “the spine becomes hyper-arched — and the end of it can even be pinched, causing sciatica.” He recommends commuting in a supportive sneaker — and only wearing heels for a special occasions or occasional workdays.
It’s not just the height of your heel, either. Dr. Amy Harmening of the Illinois Back Institute warns patients to “avoid” the narrow stiletto, which causes instability and pressure. Instead, she recommends a wedge: “The surface area is increased and therefore, improves stability … and doesn’t apply so much pressure to the sole of the foot.” Flats, including ballet flats and flip flops, may not be the solution either. “They don’t have an arch support and you don’t get the shock absorption,” explains Dr. Hansraj.
2. Halter Tops
That cute strap “pulls the neck forward,” says Dr. Hansraj. “This is especially true for women with larger breasts, who will be putting additional stress on their necks.” He suggests a strapless bra for extra support.
3. Heavy Necklaces
“Statement jewelry typically pulls you into poor posture,” cautions Hansraj, who recommends only wearing large necklaces for short periods of time, or even better: “Protect yourself by maintaining good posture — keep your ears above your shoulder and your angel wings pulled back — when you have them on.”
4. Pencil Skirts
This office go-to brings the knees together and restricts movement, straining the back. “Over time, this will eventually cause damage that could lead to disc or muscle problems, which are quite painful,” warns Dr. Hansraj.
5. Skinny Jeans
Skintight denim is another constricting trend. Not all skinnies are bad, just those that are so tight that they restrict your knees, hips, and thighs. “This will unavoidably change the way the body moves while walking,” Hansraj explains, which “will place an added stress on joints resulting from the decreased shock absorption.” In plain English, painted on jeans are bad.
6. Skimpy Bras
Thin straps may look sexy, but they may not be providing enough support. Instead of spreading out across the surface of your shoulder, the pressure concentrates on one spot, which pulls down the shoulders and causes pain.
7. Heavy Bags
Carrying too much can, unsurprisingly, cause a crick in your neck. Thicker straps can help distribute the weight better, but Dr. Hansraj cautions, “Think it through. Do you really need everything thrown in there? Those pounds cause almost immediate neck pain that is completely preventable.” And the American Chiropractic Association has a good rule-of-thumb: Make sure the weight of your bag is no more than 10% of your body weight.
8. Purses With One Strap
Slinging a bag on one shoulder causes an imbalance of weight on the spine — and do it enough, you could have uneven muscles and joints. “The person carrying the bag will hike one shoulder to subconsciously guard against the weight, holding the other shoulder immobile,” Dr. Richard Brassard, a former president of the American Chiropractic Association, explains on the organization’s website. “This results in the unnatural counterbalance movement of one shoulder and little control over the movements of the arms and legs. Even worse, the spine curves toward the shoulder.” Alternating sides frequently or wearing a backpack is a better bet.
First, shapewear can be great for your back, says Hansraj. “Spanx and other shapewear, appropriately sized, are good because they engage your core and you start to use those muscles more and more.” But most women size down to appear even smaller, which is a bad move. “When they’re constricting, you lose range of motion of the various pelvic muscles and then you start to put more stresses to the lower back,” he says.Fortunately, it takes a long time to do permanent damage. “Most forms of back pain can be helped,” says Dr. Hansraj. “When you start to employ smarter strategies and get a few treatments like massages, hot packs, and physical therapy, you get better faster.” So don your heels for a date night — and then treat yourself to a day at the spa.