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Why High Heels Are Bad For Your Back

Most heels aren’t worn for comfort, and although they may enhance your outfit or boost confidence, wearing them too often can lead to lower back pain, achy hips, and tightness in the leg muscles. There are 2 main anatomical reasons why wearing high heels causes back pain.

  • When you wear high heels, the muscles from your feet to your back are tightened.

One of the main ligaments in the foot is the plantar fascia, which forms the arch on the sole of the foot. This ligament is connected to the calf muscles which are connected to the hamstrings. Your lower back and pelvis are connected to the hamstrings, so when the plantar fascia in your foot is stretched while wearing heels, everything from your feet to your back is tightened. Constant strain on your lower back in this way can cause back pain and lead to more serious back issues.

  • Wearing heels forces you to walk on the balls of your feet.

When you stand on the balls of your feet, your body weight and center of gravity are pushed forward. To compensate for this shift, the upper body has to lean back or arch in order to maintain balance. When your lower back is arched for long periods of time, that area can develop pain.

What Spinal Injuries May Result?

People who wear high heels may either never feel much back pain, feel only minor back pain, have chronic back pain, or end up suffering from one of these spinal injuries:

  • Foraminal Stenosis. This condition results from the narrowing of the intervertebral foramen – the narrow openings along the spine. These openings protect nerves that run from your spinal cord to your arms and legs. When one of the intervertebral discs (which are adjacent to the opening of the foramen) slips or herniates, it can narrow the openings and compress nerves, causing pain.
  • Spondylolisthesis. This condition is commonly called a slipped vertebra and just as the name suggests, it is when one of the vertebrae slips out of place over the vertebra below it. It usually occurs in the lower back and can be the result of many things, one of which is the abnormal alignment of the facet joints.
  • Sciatica. One of the largest nerves in your body is the sciatic nerve which stretches from your lower back, along your hips and down your legs to your feet. When this nerve is pinched or compressed, you may experience pain and tingling, or just unusual numbness.

What Can You Do to Relieve Back Pain and Prevent Injury?

An obvious remedy for back pain caused by high heels is to stop wearing them, but if this is not an option for you due to your work attire or own style choices, there are ways to relieve some of your pain. A good place to start is by stretching and strengthening the overworked muscles in your legs and lower back.

  • Stretch your leg muscles and hip flexors before and after wearing heels. There are many different stretches you can try, but be sure to pick ones that are most comfortable for you.
  • Massage and stretch the muscles in the soles of your feet. You can roll your foot on a golf ball or get professional foot massages like reflexology. This will help to relax and lengthen the plantar fascia and loosen the hamstrings.
  • Strengthen and increase the range of motion in your ankles and feet. Walking barefoot on sand is a great way to strengthen the feet. You can also try the “marble pickup” exercise by sitting in a chair and using your toes to pick up and move marbles.

If you have suffered from a serious back injury, Dr. Melamed can treat your injury in addition to a wide variety of spinal ailments. Call (310) 928-2769 or make an appointment online today to learn more about minimally invasive treatment options.