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When Today's Fashion Becomes Tomorrow's Pain

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Tips for Being Comfortably Fashionable
  • Choose a purse or briefcase that has a wide adjustable strap, long enough to wear across your torso. This helps to distribute the weight more evenly across the body.
  • Keep your purse or briefcase as light as possible - take time to remove unnecessary items - and switch from side to side frequently to ease the burden.
  • Try not to keep your wallet or card holder in your back pocket - especially when you are sitting or driving for extended periods of time.
  • Wear comfortable shoes as much as possible. Wear flat shoes if you walk to work, and bring your heels with you. Keeping a comfortable lower-heeled pair at your office is helpful if your feet begin to bother you during the day.
  • Be picky when shopping for shoes, and only buy them if they are very comfortable.  Look for shoes with lower heel heights. Your body will thank you.
  • If possible, remove your heels and stretch your calves and hamstrings during the day.
  • Avoid wearing excessively tight clothing.  If clothing is very form-fitting, make sure the fabric has some stretch.
  • Consider your daily tasks, and if your clothing affects your movements in a negative way, consider outfits that will better fit your lifestyle.

Looking your best may not always be the best thing for your body. Today's society is generally very style and fashion conscious. The downside is that clothing designers and style professionals focus on creating visually interesting styles that can sometimes be impractical or even uncomfortable to wear.

Fashion shows typically feature models strutting down the runway in high heel stilettos and tight pants or skirts. These styles may look good on the catwalk, but in real life they are rarely practical and often result in back, foot, leg, neck or spine problems.  Many women are unaware of the adverse effects of wearing high heels, tight clothing, and carrying a heavy purse or briefcase.

Women often wear high heels to complement an outfit rather than for comfort, not realizing that high heel shoes can cause serious pain and problems in the feet and legs.  It can even cause or exacerbate back pain. 

In a natural barefoot posture, the body's weight is properly distributed.  When a woman wears high heels, the position of the body is altered which causes shortening and tightening of certain muscles - particularly the hamstrings, and the gastrocnemius muscles of the calves.  It also causes increased stress and strain on your body while it struggles to adapt to an altered center of gravity.  Wearing high heels for an extended length of time increases the normal curve of the lower back, causing the pelvis to tilt forward. These changes are necessary for the body to maintain equilibrium while wearing high heels, but they are bad news for the musculoskeletal system. 

Look for heels that are well-made, supportive, well-cushioned, and ideally less than 3 inches high.  Also, try to minimize the length of time heels are worn, and alternate them with good, supportive low heeled shoes.

Another major problem area when it comes to fashion is purses or handbags. Women often carry too many items in their purses, and are usually unaware of the potential health risks associated with lugging around too much "stuff."  When a women carries a purse or briefcase on one shoulder, she will unconsciously raise that shoulder and tighten her muscles in an attempt to keep it in place.  This throws off her body alignment and causes even more muscles to tighten in an attempt to balance this uneven weight distribution.  This can can cause chronic back pain, and an abnormal curvature in the spine.  When we see a patient who has been carrying her purse on one shoulder, it is usually very obvious due to the telltale postural issues and misalignments.

It is much better to use a purse or briefcase that has a strap long enough to be worn across the body, which distributes the weight more evenly.  It also allows your shoulder to relax more because you are no longer subconsciously tightening your muscles to keep it in place. The other important factor is the weight of your purse or briefcase.  Go through your bag regularly, removing anything that you don't absolutely need to carry each day.  Even with the bare minimum though, your purse or briefcase can still be a significant burden, especially if you are carrying it for an extended length of time. Also, get in the habit of switching your purse or briefcase from one side of the body to the other, to keep your body more balanced.

Both men and women are susceptible to the influence of fashion. However, women are much more likely to wear clothes that are too tight. A tight pencil skirt or tight jeans can be attractive on some women, but they can also make it more difficult to sit, walk or bend. This will usually have a negative effect on posture, and can cause or exacerbate spinal misalignments.

The main problem area for men is that they often carry their wallets or cardholders in the back pocket of their pants. This can be convenient, but carrying your wallet in the back pocket of your pants can throw your body off balance when sitting for an extended period of time.  Make a point of switching your wallet to your front pocket if you know you will be sitting or driving for a while.

Stylists and designers are often more concerned about the way something looks rather than the effect it has on the body. Pay attention to the way your body feels.  It's nice to look fashionable, but it's more important in the long run to select shoes, bags and clothes that not only suit your style and lifestyle, but are also comfortable.  Besides, feeling good will make you look even better as your natural health and vitality shines through.  By following these simple suggestions, you can be fashionable while still being comfortable, and feel as great as you look.

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