Fashion Versus Your Bad Back

By on December 9, 2014
women reaching for clothes holding back

By Doug Johnson−

If you have back pain, what you wear can help you feel better—or worse. Most people know that high heels and heavy shoulder bags are hard on backs. But other types of clothing can contribute to back pain, too. Any garment that constricts movement, like tight jeans and tight tops, or that pulls on the neck or shoulders like poorly fitting bras and heavy necklaces can strain your back or affect your posture.

Fashion need not be sacrificed for comfort. A combination of common sense and accentuating your personal style can make a strong fashion statement. Here are a few fashion ‘don’ts’ if you’re dealing with back pain.

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High Heels

While they may look nice, high heels alter your center of gravity, placing more stress on the spine and knees. Prolonged wear can also cause your calf muscles to shorten. If heels are a must for certain situations, minimize the time you wear them.

If you commute, use tennis shoes or other shoes that support the feet and legs and don the heels after you reach your destination. Avoid stiletto heels and pointed toes. Instead, try lower heels with a wider base like those on classic pumps. Shoe manufacturers are responding to concerns about uncomfortable shoes by adding inserts, heel supports, contoured foot-beds and resilient soles to fashionable styles, so make an effort to look for more comfortable high heels if possible.

Heavy Neck Jewelry

Have you worn an attractive, chunky necklace only to experience sore shoulders or a stiff neck? Heavy neck jewelry adds extra weight around your neck, causing neck and shoulder muscles to work more. Heavy necklaces pull your head forward and put pressure on your cervical vertebrae. Back muscles automatically compensate by placing stress on the spine. If you like chunky jewelry, go for lighter-weight materials that are kinder to your back.

Ill-Fitting Bras

Poorly fitted bras can also aggravate back pain. Straps that are too tight can dig into shoulders or compress nerves. Inversely, a loose under band puts more pressure on the shoulders and shoulder blades. Well-fitted bras, both traditional and sports models, distribute the strain across the shoulders and back.

Tight Clothing

Tight jeans, skirts and tops may make a fashion statement, but they can also restrict the way you move, change the way you walk or throw you off balance. If you can’t bend, sit comfortably or breathe normally, your clothing may be restricting joints, compressing vertebrae or straining shoulder and neck muscles. Many manufacturers add stretchy materials like Lycra to clothing for more give in the fabric. This lets you move freely while still wearing a contoured, form-fitting garment.

Develop your own fashion style by knowing and wearing what looks best on your frame. Attractive, well-fitted clothing that lets you move freely and naturally helps take the tension off your back. Taking a more proactive approach can go a long way in both preventing and relieving lower back pain.

For more DIY tips, take a look at North American Spine’s new eBook, titled “Back Pain and You: Easy Tips For Better Health.”


Doug Johnson, PA, North American Spine | Doug Johnson helped create North American Spine in 2009, and is certified with the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants. In addition to managing all medical staff, Doug also facilitates all new location launches by training physicians in proper AccuraScope procedure techniques and instructing office staff in North American Spine expectations of quality patient service.

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Fashion Versus Your Bad Back