We, at Creative Chiropractic, have recently been looking at the impact high heel shoes maybe having on women and the way they could possibly be developing or exacerbating problems to their spinal health.
As a Chiropractor, and as Robert and Rachel would vouch, there are certain questions we are regularly asked by our patients, one being, “can the wearing of high heels aggravate my existing low back complaint and can they cause other problems?”.
The British Chiropractic Association has recently published an article on this subject and the latest data indicates that 59% of women wear high-heeled shoes for between one to eight hours a day. It may not be surprising then that shoes with an increased heel height have been linked to a higher incidence of low back complaints. With the feet and ankles in an elevated position, high-heeled shoes can change the foot-loading, causing an alteration in back muscle activation, affect pelvic tilt and result in a different walking pattern. High heels also raise the centre of mass of the body, thus affecting postural stability which can lead to changes in muscle timing and activity resulting in discomfort and fatigue. Other consequences include swelling and/or limited movement, promoting fibrosis (the formation of excess fibrous tissue) which affects the normal architecture of the muscles and alters joint loading thereby increasing the risk of repetitive low back strain injuries.
Studies have revealed that there is an increase in electromyography (EMG) recording (a technique for evaluating and recording the electrical activity produced by skeletal muscles) of the deep low back muscles with increased heel heights. More specifically, in younger women (20-25 years) both low (4cms) and high (10cms) heeled shoes resulted in significant differences in low back muscle EMG activity. In middle aged women (45-55 years) it was only high heels that resulted in this significant difference.
Other research has looked to see if wearing high heels affects any other areas of the body. An American study suggests that the patellofemoral joint (the joint between the thigh bone and the knee cap) can also come under increased stress when wearing high-heeled shoes creating patellofemoral pain and a Brazilian study questioned whether walking in high-heeled shoes could contribute to common causes of venous complaints such as pain, fatigue, and heavy-feeling legs. It was also found that walking in high heels reduced the muscle pump function of the legs (where the leg muscles contract on to the veins to push blood back up to the heart). The continuous use of high heels tends to provoke venous hypertension in the lower limbs and may represent a causal factor of venous disease such as leg ulcers, swelling, changes in skin pigmentation and eczema. Another American study using heel heights of just 3.8cms, looked at the changes in knee loading stress, called ‘torque’, which is thought to be relevant to the development and/or progression of knee osteoarthritis. The results showed a significant increase in knee torques and the conclusions advised women not to wear high heel shoes.
At Creative Chiropractic, we look beyond the symptoms of pain and focus on the causal factors of why the body has moved away from a state of ‘equilibrium’ resulting in discomfort, dysfunction and distress.
So, with the question being, “Are stiletto’s ‘high heel hell’ for your health? Well, I will let you decide!
Take care of your spines.