Research shows that women are much more likely to have various back pain issues than men, especially chronic pain around the lower back. There are many known and unknown causes to this, pelvic structure, hormone, impacts of pregnancy and baby deliveries are all contributed to this complex picture.
It seems that women are born to be able to bear more physical pains than men. Some of us start to get monthly menstrual pain since our teens, then nine-month pregnancy loosened all our pelvic joints, the final mighty push to deliver our lovely baby put the great pressure onto our pelvic and the lower part of our spine. God knows that does not matter how well we recovered, our bodies are never the same again.
There are many things we can do to help with the back pain: exercise, physiotherapy, massage, pain killer, surgery – you don’t want to use the last one unless extremely necessary. What I want to tell you is, there is one very thing you must consider if you never thought about it – that is, change your footwear, switch to flat, supportive shoes if you have not done so. Let me share with you my personal experience as a highly experienced high heel wearer.
I have been suffering from lower back pain for years (don’t get me wrong, I am only in my 40s. I know, to a 20 yr old, 40 is pretty old… haha). I tried chiropractic, acupuncture, massage, etc. none of them worked much really. About a year ago, my lower back pain got really bad, and I had tinkling feelings all the way down to my leg, and that tinkling feeling even extends to my private area. I can not drive for long at all, sometimes I feel terrible back pain just by sitting on the driver seat. And twice, I suddenly could not move my lower back at all. I totally freaked out. The scan shows that I got a bulging disc issue. Of course, nobody can really explain how this happened given I did not have any apparent injury. The doctor said that it could be caused by a long time sitting in office, driving, plus the previous damages from twice baby deliveries… Anyway, I started half a year journey with my physiotherapist.
The very first advice I got from my physiotherapist apart from all the body movements is: move off from high heels, I must not wear high heels anymore, I need to move to flat shoes…
I tried all other possible treatment/remediation before, but I never thought about to change my footwear. I am a petite person, I always on high heels when I out of the house. The only times I wear flat shoes are the time I go to the gym. 90% of my shoe collection are high heels, and most of them are really high, 8cm plus, some of the platforms ones are over 10cm.
It is a life changing thing to me, I felt devastated for quite a while. To begin with. I need to figure out what styles of flat shoes can work with my existing wardrobe. This was quite challenging for me at the beginning.
In about a year time, my back is getting back to normal gradually. Of course, changing the footwear is not the only thing I did to help my back, it is really one of the few changes I applied to my life, but it is the most important and the most foundational one.
According to a podiatric surgeon I found from the Insider.com, "When you wear heels, that throws off the alignment in your foot, that then goes to your ankles, your knees, your hips, your back — your whole skeletal alignment is off, adding extra stress onto the joints, which in turn can cause arthritis over the years."
Figure 1 How high heel impact you (www.thespinehealthinstitute.com)
Apparently, high heels cause us to lean forward and over the years, this posture can change the natural shape of our spine, we could end up with Spondylolisthesis, or the slippage of one vertebra forward over another, high occurrences with high heels.
The change of anatomy could also reduce the space between the discs and could compress the sciatic nerve. Numbness, tingling, weak muscles, pain from hip to leg are all common symptoms. At the worst case, some aged women end up on the wheelchairs for the rest of their life after many years suffering from these symptoms – compressed nerves, bulging disc, arthritis.
In addition, our calve muscles can become shortened and tendons may thicken. I heard a few stories in my podiatrist office (why I see podiatrist? Yes, I have another problem that caused by those super sexy, sharp pointed heels, I will share my bunions experience with you later), some women wear high heels for the whole of their corporate life, the next day after their retirement, they move to flat shoes, and collapsed because their calves are shortened over the years, the muscle not long enough to support flat shoes… This story surprised me a lot, I did not know high heels can damage that much really.
I am not trying to scare you off, as an experienced high heel wearer (over 20 years intensive experiences), I absolutely understand that a lot of times no other styles can achieve what high heels can. However, I think we all should have the right to make an informed decision in terms of footwear selection. We all know high heels are not good, but we may not fully understand how bad they are, and what exact damage they can bring to us.
I wish I knew all of these when I was 18, I would then choose a balanced strategy in footwear selection. Just like a nutrition balanced meal that you should have lots of veggies, some protein, some carbohydrates… and occasionally we can have ice cream and cakes. In terms of our footwear selection, we should have flat and supportive shoes as everyday footwear, low-to-medium height heels as Sometimes choices, and wear high heels as occasional shoes.
Figure 2 A Balanced Footwear Selection