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Today’s Fashion Can Be Tomorrow’s Pain

Looking your best might not always be the best thing for you. Today’s
society is extremely fashion and style conscious. Unfortunately, clothing
designers and stylists aim to please by creating unique looks that might
not always be practical or even comfortable.

The look of the season shows runway models in high platform heels and
tight skirts or pants. Models have perfected the runway “walk,” but the
popular looks and accessories are frequently impractical and could create
leg, back, and spine or neck problems. “Sometimes I see a woman walking
down the street with high heels and a two-ton bag, and I want to stop her
and make her aware of what she is doing to her body,” said ACA national
spokesperson, Dr. Jerome McAndrews.

Women generally wear high heels to complement an outfit, not for comfort,
but some might not realize that these shoes can cause serious discomfort
in the feet and can also exacerbate back pain. High heels alter the balanced
position of a person’s body. When a woman wears high heels, a new dynamic
equilibrium occurs. Dr. McAndrews compared the musculoskeletal system to
a mobile, hanging in dynamic equilibrium, each part balancing the other.
If one part becomes ‘fixed,’ the whole system will compensate with a movement
or restriction. Essentially, wearing high heels for any length of time
increases the normal forward curve of the back and causes the pelvis to
tip forward. This alters the normal configuration of the pelvis and spine
necessary for the body to maintain a center of gravity.

“The legs are the foundation of the musculoskeletal system, and a person
standing flat-footed or bare-footed would be completely balanced,” said
Dr. McAndrews. “While standing, the hamstrings are taut and both parts
of the pelvis are stabilized so that the support is normal. By bringing
the heel up, you encourage the shortness of the hamstring muscles.”

Women and men alike fall into the fashion trap. However, women, more than
men, tend to wear clothes that are too tight. Stylish tight tube skirts
and tight pants can be attractive, but are often too restrictive. Clothes
that are too tight throw a person off-balance, and simple everyday tasks
such as bending, sitting and walking become difficult. “Tight clothes restrict
a person from moving comfortably, resulting in poor posture and misalignment
of the spine,” said Dr. McAndrews.

Another unhealthy fashion statement is the use of heavy purses, backpacks
and handbags. Women and men tend to carry too many items in one bag, or
briefcase, and are often not aware of the potential health risks associated
with toting an excessive amount of “stuff.” Carrying a bag with detectable
weight-more than 10 percent of your body weight-can cause improper balance.
When hiked over one shoulder, it interferes with the natural movement of
the upper and lower body. “The person carrying the bag will hike one shoulder
to subconsciously guard against the weight, holding the other shoulder
immobile,” said Dr. McAndrews. “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.”

More and more people carry their credit cards, ATM cards and personal
identification in the back pocket of their pants. This might be a convenient
way of carrying the necessary items with you each day, but carrying your
wallet in the back pocket of your pants can cause discomfort. Dr. McAndrews
suggested men and women remove their wallets or other items before sitting
for long periods of time. “Sitting on your wallet or card holder for the
entire day will create a pocket in the muscle lying underneath the wallet,
and whether your pants are tight or loose-fitting, this can result in discomfort
or pain.”

In today’s society, it might be important to you to look fashionable,
but it is more important to choose clothes, shoes and bags that are comfortable
and that suit your style. By following and remembering these simple steps,
it is possible to look and feel your best.

  • Choose comfortable shoes. If you must wear high heels, bring a pair of
    flat shoes along with you to change into should you become uncomfortable.
    If you walk to work, wear flat shoes and change into your more fashionable
    shoes when you arrive to alleviate any pain or discomfort.
  • If the shoe is uncomfortable while standing, chances are it will not be
    any more comfortable while walking. The wrong shoe can affect the body’s
    center of gravity.
  • Choose supportive shoes. Designer spikes or non-supportive loafers may
    look nice but do not allow for easy, symmetrical walking.
  • While sitting, whether or not you are wearing heels, it is important to
    take frequent stretch breaks to alleviate atrophy of the hamstring muscles.
  • Avoid excessive wear of tight pants or clothing. If you prefer tighter
    clothes, choose styles that allow you to perform daily tasks with ease.
  • Select a briefcase or purse with a wide adjustable strap. Ideally, the
    strap should be long enough to place over the head. This evenly distributes
    the bulk of the weight across the body.
  • When carrying a bag, or briefcase, switch sides frequently to avoid placing
    the burden of the weight on one side of your body.
  • Take the time to empty unnecessary items from your bag.
  • Place all necessary items-such as wallets and cellular phones-in the front
    pockets of the bag. Stretching around to reach for your wallet can result
    in a pulled neck or back.
  • If you are driving or sitting for long periods of time, remove your wallet
    or card holder from the back pocket of your pants.
  • Think about your daily tasks. If your clothes affect your movements, consider
    outfits that fit your lifestyle.

Designers and stylists tend to
be more concerned about the way something looks rather than the way it
feels. Listen to your body. One of the most important aspects of being
in style and looking your best is to maintain healthy judgement. By following
simple suggestions, being fashionable can be comfortable.