Back pain is the most common type of chronic pain, both in the United States and around the world. According to the American Chiropractic Association, half of all working adults in the US report experiencing back pain at least once a year. A whopping 80% of people will experience back pain at some point in their lives.
How can we make sense of those numbers? Perhaps the most important thing to do is to understand the small decisions you make every day that may cause or contribute to back pain. For some people – and for women in particular – the issue may begin when they decide what to wear in the morning.
High Heels and Back Pain
The first fashion culprit when it comes to back pain probably won’t surprise you. Wearing high heels might make your legs look great, but it’s not doing your spine any favors. High heels force your feet into an unnatural position by pushing your toes down and to the front. Elevating your heels applies pressure to the ball of your foot, which can be painful. The balls of your feet aren’t meant to support your body weight over an entire day.
Wearing high heels can cause bunions, a painful condition that pushes the bone on the side of your big toe out while pushing your toes together. It also shortens your calf muscles. That’s a problem because it changes your gait, causing your back to arch and requiring you to use your back muscles to remain upright.
The bottom line is that high heels put pressure on your toes, back, and even your neck and shoulders. A better alternative if you want some added height is to wear platform shoes with no more than two-inch heel in the back.
Backless Shoes and Back Pain
Mules, or backless shoes, are always popular – but wearing them may be putting too much strain on your back. There are several reasons that wearing them might not be a good idea:
- They do not provide good arch support
- They don’t always stay on your feet
- They can tighten the arch of your foot and alter your gait
- Altering your foot position and gait can impact your spine
Does that mean you should never wear mules? No, but it does mean that you should choose your mules with care and wear them only when you don’t have a lot of walking to do. One of the best ways to test a mule is to put it on and then shake your foot. If the shoe stays on your foot, you probably won’t need to scrunch your toes while you walk.
You should also try walking in mules before you buy them. If you find that you can’t walk with your natural, long stride, then look for another pair.
Handbags and Back Pain
Carrying a handbag or purse is second nature to most women, but it turns out that even carrying a small bag can strain your back, neck, and shoulders.
The obvious culprit is weight. If you’re carrying an oversized handbag, laptop bag, or purse, the weight can pull down on your shoulder, putting strain on both your spine and your neck. You can minimize the risk of developing back pain by lightening your load. For example, you might downsize your purse or try leaving certain items at home or in the office instead of carrying them back and forth every day.
Even a small bag can be problematic. If you’ve ever found yourself hunching your shoulder to keep your bag’s strap from slipping off, you might be putting unnecessary strain on your shoulder, neck, and back. As an alternative, you might try a small backpack or cross-body bag.
Cell Phones and Back Pain
Finally, you may want to rethink the way you use your cell phone. While it’s not really a fashion accessory in the same way shoes and handbags are, few of us leave home without a cell phone.
The problem is in how we hold our phones. If you’re holding your phone in your hand and bending your neck to look at it, you’re putting pressure on your cervical spine. Over time, this can lead to a condition called “text neck.”
The solution? Hold your phone in one hand, rest your elbow against your abdomen, and hold your phone up and in front of you, so you can see it without bending your neck. That way, your spine can remain in proper alignment while you check your texts.
If you want to prevent back pain, start with your wardrobe. Replacing high heels with platforms, minimizing the time you spend wearing backless shoes, choosing the right handbag, and changing the way you hold your cell phone will ensure that your back stays in proper alignment throughout the day.