The Effects of Wearing Heels On Your Spine

High heels are well-known to negatively affect posture. However, the full extent of how wearing high heels can affect your health is not well-known by most people. The majority of women wear high heels at some points in their life. While most wear them only once in a while for special occasions or things like going out to dinner, there are also many women who wear heels on a daily basis. This can have serious negative health effects in the long run.

Short-Term Effects

Wearing high heels drastically changes your posture. The higher the heels, the worse the changes become. When you wear high heels, your chest is pushed outward, your lower back is pushed forward (this causes your hips and spine to get out of alignment), and additional pressure is placed on your knees. All these changes can lead to muscle fatigue and the cramping of calf muscles.

Heels change the natural s-curve shape of your spine. Normally, this shape acts as a form of shock absorber and reduces the amount of stress placed on the individual vertebrae. However, when you wear heels, the shape is altered by causing the lumbar part of the spine to flatten. This happens because wearing heels makes your lower body lean forward. In order to compensate and stay balanced, your upper body has to lean backward. This can lead to muscle tension and back pain.

Long-Term Effects

The long-term effects of wearing heels can be very serious, especially if you wear them frequently or on a daily basis. In fact, daily use over several years can actually change your anatomy. For example, calf muscles can shorten and tendons can thicken. In the worst case scenario, one vertebra may slip forward over another (a condition called spondylolisthesis). This occurs most commonly in the lumbar portion of your spine because that’s where the additional pressure on you back as a result of wearing heels is greatest.

These problems can be mitigated by avoiding wearing heels for long periods of time and not wearing them on a daily basis. Also, stretching your legs before and after wearing heels, limiting heel height to nothing over two inches, and avoiding pointed toe heels can be beneficial. If you are suffering from back pain, a slipped disc, or spondylolisthesis, you may want to speak with an experienced spine surgeon. Call the Spine Institute at 973-538-4444 to make an appointment.