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Do high heels cause low back pain?

The ever popular high heels shoe has been in fashion for decades. Women wear then for a variety of reasons.

There is a belief that these fashion must haves cause low back pain but what do they actually do to the body?

One of the cosmetic features of high heels it they highlight a woman’s curves. This is the result of the elevated heals off setting your balance and your body attempting to compensate. They cause the back to arch and chest to thrust out. This position causes your pelvis to tilt forward, which in turn increases the curve of your back, making it more concave or dish shaped. As you can see in the image below, the normal curves of the spine are changed when you put on high heels. The normal S shape of the spine acts like a shock absorber, reducing the stress on the spine. You can imagine how looking that shock absorption ability can affect the vertebrae. Being forced into this position causes significantly more muscle tension as seen on EMG, especially in the lowest part of the low back.

For each cm increase in the heel height, the curve increases by the same amount. This changes the way that your body keeps your centre of mass centered. Who is most at risk for changes in the low back? Younger high heeled wearers have the most increase in their low back curve compared to older wearers.

A heels height determines the weight pressure carried by the forefoot or ball of the foot. The more you lean forward, the more you put pressure on the ball of your foot, the more you increase your chance of injury.

Another major finding in high heel shoes is the changes in the way you walk, or your gait. When we walk, we have a normal fluid motion to our step. This changes when wearing high heeled shoes. The major change is an increase in vertical movement, which can lead to more compression in the low back and over time can cause injury.

The high nature of a high heels shoe and the increased angle that your foot and ankle are forced into by wearing such a high shoe cause higher forces in vertical displacement. This can in turn cause additional compression in the legs and low back.

For more information on footwear and how they affect your body visit us at ARC Health & Wellness, Chiropractor in North York. Located between Weston Road and Jane Street on Finch Avenue West, call 647-504-4213 or visit us at www.arc-health.com.

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