Common Lifestyle Choices Can Cause Health Hazards


Sore back, huh? Blisters on your feet again? A recent breakout — even though you’re way past puberty?

Our culture is rife with fashions that damage the body — sometimes quickly and noticeably, but more often slowly and insidiously. We all know we bought the wrong pair of shoes when they cause third-degree blisters after only an hour’s worth of wear, but most of us shrug off those lingering aches and discomforts that are often the early signs of a more serious latent condition. Be it high heels, face products, or skinny jeans, there is probably at least one thing in your daily ensemble that is doing your body a major disservice.

Shortened Tendons Aren’t Sexy

According to Cindy Grand, physiotherapist at the Kinsmen Sports Centre Physical Therapy Clinic, problems associated with improper footwear are quite common.

“They tend to come in fads and phases,” she says. For example, the recent trend of extremely pointy-toed shoes (for both women and men) causes compression in the toes. “This can lead to bunions and Morton’s neuroma, which is an inflammation and fibrosis between the two bones located right before the toes,” Grand reports.

Everyone knows that high heels cause problems, but few people are aware of the full extent of damage they can cause. “High heels change the biomechanics of the body from the bottom up,” Grand says. “The ankle ends up bent into plantar flexion — this puts the Achilles tendon in a shortened position. When the foot is out of the heel, the tendon stretches.”

In layman’s terms, this means that wearing heels for too long (say, eight hours a day for 10 years) permanently shortens your tendons — and when you take the shoes off, the tendons stretch and can be thus damaged.

Grand also notes that she often sees problems from high heels, pointy toes, and other improperly fitted shoes in the hip and lower back. “They put a lot of stress on the hip and make you stand with your back in an arched position,” she explains. “Ultimately, the damage is usually in the form of too much stress on the joints.” Though Grand estimates that only 20 to 30 per cent of the cases she sees are directly caused by wearing the wrong shoes, she believes that in almost all cases the shoes exacerbate the situation.

Nice Saddle Bags

Grand has also seen problems arising from purses and shoulder bags that are too large and/or worn incorrectly. “The bag should hang just under your arm, above the waist,” she says. A bag that bangs against your hip with each step throws off your natural motion and forces your movements to re-align themselves, causing similar problems as high heels.

Furthermore, Grand notes, if the bag is too heavy and the straps are too narrow, it will dig into your shoulder’s nerves and “cause pins and needles and tingling down the arm.”

Post Pubescent Breakouts

You can’t blame hormones this time: if you experience zits, breakouts, rosacea, or a myriad of other skin problems in your adult years, the most likely culprit is your daily slathering of face and hair products. Dr. Mariusz Sapijaszko, medical director of the Western Canada Dermatology Institute, notes that the majority of skin complaints are caused by reactions to product ingredients — including so-called “natural” ingredients.

Just because it’s a natural product doesn’t mean people won’t react to it,” he says. “People react equally to synthetic and natural products.” Sapijaszko also notes that all forms of face products can cause breakouts, everything from daily moisturizer and aftershave to foundation and lipstick. In addition, Sapijaszko indicates that hair products can also cause breakouts and skin issues, as “they migrate down the hair shaft and get on to the skin, even if they weren’t sprayed or applied directly to the skin.”

Interestingly, in terms of problems directly caused by face and hair products, Sapijaszko reports similar numbers to Grand: “[Face and hair] products can exacerbate the condition in almost 100 per cent of the cases… but for products to be the key cause, it’s about 20 per cent to 30 per cent.”

Who Wears Short Shorts?

A warning to all those who have subscribed to the recent skinny-pant fad: that tingling in your thighs is caused not by the electric gaze of lusty suitors but by a condition called Meralgia Parasthetica (MP). Essentially, MP results from damage to the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve (the nerve that runs around the back and sides of your thigh), causing tingling, burning, and numbness. Though overweight people and pregnant women are most at risk for this condition, it has also been associated with the use of tight pants. Pants that severely pinch your flesh, especially if they’re worn by people who are already overweight, can easily cause compression of this nerve.

Tight pants have also been associated with other health complaints: for men, low sperm count and even infertility; for women, an array of infections. Those testicles hang low for a reason: sperm requires a lower temperature to survive. Tight pants squash the testicles up against the body, raising the temperature and killing sperm.

On the other hand, a woman’s tight pants, especially coupled with synthetic underwear, provide the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. This can lead to a host of infections, including urinary tract infections, yeast infections, and bacterial vaginosis.

So the next time you rush out to buy the latest fashion trend, think for a moment: are those fashions really comfortable, or might they just lead to future unpleasantness?

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