It appears as though being a wildly popular style icon and designer does not prevent your body from retaliating with pain when you abuse your body’s natural function. Victoria Beckham, in all her glory and glamour, has been forced to at least temporarily stop wearing her signature stilettos due to a slipped disc in her back causing too much pain to bend or move at times.
Your spine, or backbone, is composed of 26 bones called vertebrae. In between adjacent vertebrae are soft disks filled with a jelly-like substance, whose main purpose is to cushion the vertebrae and keep them in place. A herniated disk, or slipped disk, is a disk that slips out of place or ruptures. Often times, this causes the disk to press on a nerve that is exiting your spinal cord, causing back or leg pain that could involve tingling burning sensations or even numbness. While we cannot say with 100% certainty that Ms. Beckham’s back injury is directly related to wearing high heels, it is quite obvious that wearing such shoes drastically changes the way your muscles and joints function, all the way from your feet to your head. Because of this concept that every body part is connected in a chain-like fashion from top to bottom, a podiatrist will often use visual gait analysis as part of their physical exam to watch how each part of the body is functioning and how abnormal function may be contributing to your symptoms.
When you wear high heels, the toes are kept pointed more toward the ground, which puts more force through your toes with each step, rather than the force from the ground going more through your heel, which is built to absorb more force and stress than your toes are.
High heels also cause your calf muscles (backs of your lower legs) to shorten, which can eventually cause your knee to stay bent slightly at all times. This, in turn, causes your hamstrings (muscles on the backside of your thighs) to tighten and shorten, thus limiting their natural range of motion and prohibiting proper function. These tight hamstrings also attach to your pelvis, or hip bones, causing it to tilt backward slightly, which causes you to lose a natural curve in your lower back, and this misalignment can strongly contribute to a majority of the low back pain problems experienced in our country.
The spine, or backbone, is meant to be a shock absorber amongst other things, but with long time use of high heels, the backbone changes its position in order to compensate for how off balance and misaligned high heels can cause your body to be. When the backbone changes its position, shock absorption is lost and more force from walking goes through all the wrong places. With so much unnatural alignment all along the chain of your body, muscles start overworking or pulling at abnormal angles and joints start taking on more stress than they should, which leads to a multitude of injuries, including, but certainly not limited to, back pain, tendon or ligament trauma, and joint arthritis.
While no conclusive evidence has been found as to how much or how little high heel use is okay, in the end, it is always natural for the body to function with the heel on the ground. Therefore, if you MUST wear high heels, it is a good idea to limit how much time you spend in them. You should spend at least as much time in proper supportive shoe gear as you do in high heels. You should ask yor doctor how to develop a daily stretching and exercise program to make sure your calf muscles, hamstrings, and back muscles stay loose and functional. our office immediately! Often times, there is a simple answer to leg and back pain, and it starts with the feet.
Rion A. Berg DPM
Podiatrist and Board Certified Foot Surgeon
Foot and Ankle Center of Lake City
2611 NE125th St, Ste 130
Our office is located in Lake City within 10 minutes of Shoreline, Kenmore, Juanita, Sandpoint, Meadowbrook, Wedgewood, Maple Leaf, Broadview, Greenwood, Northgate, and Pinehurst. Parking is free. For bus commuters, routes 41 and 243 stop right in front of our office at 26th & NE 125th.