Dr Neil Gardner, Contributor
Trying to live up to one's cultural standards of beauty is sometimes unrealistic or may come with psychological and physical risks.
Unfortunately, to many women, the reward of trying to embody a culture's beauty standards outweighs the dangers.
Toned calves, long legs, high curvy bottoms and increased height are all considered signs of beauty in the western world. High heels are able to immediately improve the appearance of each of these qualities in women, but unfortunately at a price.
Your Feet - The Foundation
The feet - the body part below the ankles, are the foundation of the musculoskeletal system. A person standing flat-footed or better yet, barefooted would be completely balanced, the ankle stabilised and the spine in its most neutral and efficient position.
The practice of wearing high heels, sometimes as high as six inches, shifts the centre of gravity forward, altering the balance position of a person's body, which will have to be compensated for while walking or even just standing and may cause or worsen low back pain.
How does the body compensate for this altered balance position?
There are changes in the normal configuration of the pelvis and spine resulting in an increase of the normal forward curve of the low back. This biomechanical change puts significant pressure on the facet joints in the lumbar spine, which, if they degenerate may result in spondylolisthesis, a slipping forward of one vertebra on the one below it causing or worsening low back pain. It also causes the pelvis to tip forward increasing the tension placed on the round ligaments of the uterus resulting in tipping or misaligning of the uterus, which may affect fertility or increase pain in menstruation.
The forces created in the feet may result in various conditions including hammer toes, bunions or lanois deformity (an outward deviation of the toes). These forces may cause a tugging of the plantar fascia (the thick band of ligaments under the sole of the foot) and the heel resulting in plantar fasciitis and heel spurs. Pointing the feet destabilises the ankles and this along with a reduction in the surface area of the shoe in contact with the ground significantly increases the probability of ankle sprains.
What to do?
If you must wear high heels, bring a pair of flat shoes along with you to change into should you become uncomfortable. If the shoe is uncomfortable while standing, chances are it will not be any more comfortable while walking. 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 you do a lot of walking at work, then be sure to have comfortable shoes in which to change.
Neil Gardner, DC, DACNB, Diplomate, American Chiropractic Neurology Board, Chiropractic Neurologist,Gardner Chiropractic & Neurology Ltd. Website:www.gcnjamaica.com; P: 876-978-1050-1/876-622-9241/ 214-432-5464 (From the USA)