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What You Should Know About High Heels and Back Pain

Brought to you by Vive Health
Do you experience regular episodes of lower back pain, leg muscle tightness, or hip discomfort? If you like wearing high heels often, then it could be what’s causing these issues.
High heels, which were invented in 1533, are a fashion staple for women to make them look more aesthetically attractive. Despite its proven impact on the idea of female sexuality, high heels lead to many kinds of foot, knee, and lower back pain.
A recent study learned that at least 78 percent of women between the ages of 20 to 50 regularly wear high heels. Some 58 percent of these women experience back problems that are induced by prolonged high heels use.
Another study enumerated several ways on how wearing high heels for a prolonged period can be bad for your back:
  • It affects the curve of the lumbar spine, which can lead to lumbar spondylosis or the degeneration of the joints and discs in the lower back.
  • It increases the weight on the tibialis anterior muscle in the shin, which impacts the center of the body mass. Walking with high heels also pushes your body’s center of gravity to the balls of the feet, which puts more stress on your back when you stand.
  • It destabilizes a woman’s posture which increases the risk of falling or tripping.

Basic Anatomy of Your Legs and Spine

A ligament in your foot called the plantar fascia connects to your calf muscles and hamstring or thigh muscles. The hamstring then connects to the pelvis and the lower back, which is why when your feet hurt from wearing high heels, you also experience a backache.
Doctors don’t find it unusual for women who wear high heels to often have neck and shoulder pain as well as low back pain, because high heels, as studies have shown, throw the body’s natural alignment into disarray.

Spinal Injuries Complicated by Wearing High Heels

For sufficient back support and pain management, a back brace is a great orthotic solution for women. However, prolonged use of high heels might lead to complications and spinal injuries, especially in old age which a back brace can’t reverse. These include:
  • Foraminal stenosis. This is a progressive condition of the spine that relates to your activities and posture. The spinal canal has spaces in between known as foramina, which might constrict and narrow due to this condition. Constriction forces pressure on the nerves that lead to tingling, shooting pain, spasms, cramps, and muscle weakness.
  • Sciatica. The sciatic nerve runs from the end of the lumbar spine to the legs. The place where the nerve runs along can also become constricted due to activity and posture, which leads to discomfort, sharp pains, and burning sensation on one side of the body.
  • Spondylolisthesis. It happens when the vertebra in the spine moves out of place. It results from either a fracture or a degeneration. The latter might be exacerbated by a chronic disease, aging, and wear and tear caused by a poor posture. There might be no symptoms of this condition apart from the usual lower back and leg pain. Women, especially those 50 and above, are more prone to this condition.

Should You Give Up High Heels?

Going cold turkey on wearing high heels might be too much, especially if you’re required to wear these on the job. A survey conducted by the American Podiatric Medical Association showed that despite a majority of women complaining of back pain and high heels, many still use this type of footwear.
Experts recommend some ways to manage wearing high heels and reducing back pain and injury:
  • Avoid wearing heels higher than two inches.
  • Use high heels for short periods only. Bring flat shoes or sneakers with you and change shoes when your work or the event is done.
  • Wear a variety of shoes and switch up regularly.
  • Slim and pointy-heeled shoes (stilettos) make your legs look thinner and sexier but avoid this type as much as possible. Thicker heels (wedges or platforms) offer more support to your legs.
  • Pick shoes with a wider toe box and adequate cushion to lessen the risk of bunions, calluses, ingrown toenails, and hammertoes.
  • When buying high heels, walk around the store and beyond the carpeted area to check how your feet actually feel.
  • Purchase your footwear in the late afternoon or the early evening when your feet are in their biggest size.
  • Consider using shoes with padding on the forefoot so that your feet won’t slip forward.
  • Straps on the shoes aren’t just for design. These actually hold the feet back and lessen pressure on the ball of the foot.

To manage back pain, you can apply a cold pack to the affected area and wear a back brace that provides an additional back support.