If you’re like us, not having back pain might be one of your most favorite childhood memories. In fact, back pain is so common that many people can relate, even those still in the throes of youth. It’s among the most frequently cited reasons for missing work and for visiting the doctor. And it’s an issue often compounded by the wrong types of clothing.
This isn’t to say that your white oxford shirts are directly attacking your trapezius or those streetwear varsity jackets are sending chills down your spine. It doesn’t mean stitch hoodies are leaving your thorax in stitches. But – let’s face it - some clothes have your back and some don’t.
A handful of the worst offenders for back pain include:
The sleek design of pencil skirts makes them a common choice for office fashion. Still, sensible doesn’t necessarily mean healthy. Pencil skirts, because they fit tight with little room, tend to push your knees together. This makes it difficult to bend, ultimately placing strain on your back when you do. Wearing them on occasion probably won’t hurt, but don’t make them a mainstay of your rotation. Having to go to work is bad enough; slipping a disc while you’re there is worse.
Accessories with any sort of substantial weight put force on your neck, possibly hurting the muscles in the cervical spine and spreading into your back. Donning jewelry probably isn’t going to land you at the chiropractors, yet less is more in this regard. Reach for a light strand of pearls and don’t opt to wear, Flava Flav style, a giant clock.
If you have vested interest in your vertebrae, there are certain types of shoes to avoid. Surprisingly to many, flat shoes often cause back issues because they don’t provide the feet with any support. Of course, heels are problematic too, especially if they’re high. Flip flops are - tragically - terrible as well. The best options are tennis shoes, shoes with strong arch support and insoles, and - yes - orthopedic shoes. Hey, no one ever said avoiding back pain would leave you looking cool.
Not all shapewear is harmful to the back; conversely, some tops are specifically designed to improve posture. But shapewear that fits too snuggly constricts movement and puts pressure on the spine. Tank tops and skinny jeans can do this too. You don’t have to change your entire wardrobe - there’s no need to halt the halter tops or deny the denim. Instead, make sure you wear apparel in the proper size.
Some people carry around bags that are large and in charge; they’re so big an entire family of opossums could move in and you wouldn’t know. They serve a purpose, sure - they’re fashionable and they allow you to carry wallets, phones, files, books, or the aforementioned marsupial. But they can put all sorts of strain on your back, especially if you choose to tote around heavy items (like a laptop). To reduce chance of harm, don’t overfill and regularly switch carrying sides so you give your body a rest.
Back in the Victorian Era, women’s clothes were so heavy that an outfit could weigh up to 25 pounds. While there are advantages to this (like immediately losing 25 pounds the second you undress), the heft is terrible for bones, muscles, and tendons. Today’s fashion is way lighter, but some clothes are heavier than others. Avoid anything too thick or ornamental and you’ll avoid carrying around extra wardrobe weight.
Although fashion, as they say, is sometimes painful, dressing to impress shouldn’t translate into back problems. Comfort counts too.