Women’s guide to better spinal health
Back pain is a common problem among women and men, affecting up to 80% of people at least once in their lifetime. Low back pain (LBP) in Ontario costs an estimated $6-12 billion dollars a year! LBP, other musculoskeletal (MSK) issues and neck pain are three of the leading causes of disability in North America. Back and neck pain can lead to poor posture and significant loss of function. These spine issues result in individuals being unable to complete their normal daily activities including work.
Ladies, our posture and spinal health play a supportive role for our bodies – at rest and in motion. Here are a few health tips around some commonly seen MSK issues chiropractors often see in women:
1. Kick up your heels
The perfect pair of heels can make any outfit, but your chosen look may come with much suffering. High heels have the stigma of being bad for your spine and posture, but this barely stops women from wearing them occasionally and often daily. Women often make sacrifices for foot fashion, but at what price? Studies have shown that your high heels can be costly in more ways than one, taking their toll on your spine, hips, knees, ankles and feet, while altering your posture and gait.
Generally, the best shoes for your body are relatively flat and provide adequate support. Try these tips to reduce the pain on those high-heel days:
Shopping for shoes
- Shop in the afternoon or evening, as your feet tend to accumulate fluid and swell throughout the day.
Choosing a shoe
- Choose a heel height that you can walk in gracefully. The effect of a high heel is easily negated by a clumsy walk.
- Try to choose a shoe with a heel height of no more than 2 inches. It’s a good compromise height that will still create the arched posture associated with high heels without sending you tipping out of them.
- Avoid buying shoes with a recessed heel, as it is one of the most unstable heel styles.
- Avoid shoes with many thin straps; these can dig into your skin causing pain and swelling.
- Ensure that the shoes have good support for the arches of your feet.
Give your feet a fighting chance
- Place a cushioning pad into the front of the shoe to pad the balls of your feet. This will also help keep your toes from getting wedged into the front of the shoe.
- Take a break from your heels now and then. Slip off your shoes discretely and stretch some of the tensed muscles. Wiggle your toes and make circles with your ankles to help increase circulation.
- Finally, after a long day or evening on your feet, give them a break. Wear a low, comfortable shoe the next day to rest your muscles. Soak your feet in Epsom salts or give them a nice massage.
The bones in your feet, like the vertebrae in your spine, can become misaligned and cause foot pain. Ask your chiropractor to examine your foot if you experience prolonged pain.
2. Pack it Light, Wear it Right: Handbags
Some women seem to carry the whole world in their handbag, but a heavy bag or purse can cause pain and injury to your spine, neck and shoulders. Overstuffed bags also cause poor posture by encouraging the carrier to lean to one side. The good news is pain and injury can be easily avoided by following a few simple tips.
Choosing a handbag
- Choose a handbag that is proportionate to your body size and no larger than what is needed. Your handbag should not weigh more than 5% of your body weight.
- Choose a handbag that has several individual pockets, instead of one large compartment. This will help to distribute the weight of the contents more evenly and keep them from shifting.
- A handbag that can be worn cross-body is also preferable to one that is worn directly on your shoulder.
Packing a handbag
- Change the size and weight of your handbag once in a while. You may also consider one bag for your work and a different one for when you go out, as you may need different objects for both.
- Ensure the weight is evenly distributed in the purse by using all the pockets.
- Empty your handbag and clean it out every week. Receipts and packaging tend to accumulate endlessly.
Carrying a handbag
- Use both hands to check the weight of the handbag.
- Instead of always carrying your handbag on the same shoulder, switch sides often so each shoulder gets a rest.
- Square your shoulders — many women have a habit of lifting the shoulder on which the purse is carried to keep the straps from slipping.
- Try to maintain good posture. When standing, your head, shoulders, hips and ankles should line up, one comfortably above the other.
- If you can walk to lunch or a meeting, lock your purse in your desk or locker and carry only your cash and/or credit cards in a pocket.
By following these simple strategies, it’s easy to lighten your load.
Awareness of common pitfalls such as those mentioned above will help prevent injury and keep your spine healthy and aligned. Injuries resulting from improper footwear and poor lifting and carrying can impact your quality of life.
If you experience pain that lasts more than two or three days, contact your spine care specialists at CURAVITA health group. Our team of healthcare MSK experts is here to help you move and feel better.
In part 2 of the Women’s Spinal Health blog, we will go over bra fitting and posture. Stay posted!