Could your neck pain be due to wearing high heels? Many people suffer from neck pain and muscular strain and those who have worn high heels know they can be uncomfortable- but are these two things linked? A polish research group looked into if high heels have a measurable negative impact on the body during walking.
The study involved women of varying ages who only occasionally wore high heels. The women were instructed to walk with no shoes, low 4 inch heels, and high 10 inch heels. To measure the muscle activity of the neck during the movement, surface electrodes were placed on the cervical paraspinal muscles. The surface electromyography system from BTS Bioengineering was used in addition to BTS Bioengineering’s motion capture system, using SMART-DX cameras for reflective markers to make up a GAITLAB. Kinematic data from the GAITLAB allowed for the integration of gait events and muscle activity. This allowed researchers to understand when and how the neck muscles were activated during the gait cycle.
It was found that during the trials with the highest heel, activity of the paraspinal muscles was significantly increased for both young and middle-aged women. In conjunction with past studies on the negative effects of high heels such as back pain, the authors were able make conclusions about the use of high heels. They indicated that the results of this study may suggest that those who wear high heels for a prolonged time can risk the over activation of neck muscles, leading to fatigue and strain injury. Furthermore, they stated that these negative effects in conjunction with age-related changes lead to more severe symptoms in middle aged women compared to younger women.
From this study we can see that wearing high heels for a prolonged time may lead to very real negative effects such as neck pain due to the compensation and shifts in muscle use during gait. In short: keep this in mind when choosing the height of your heels.
This post was based on the following article, cited:
Mika, Anna & Oleksy, Łukasz & Mikołajczyk, Edyta & Marchewka, Anna & Mika, Piotr. (2011). Changes of bioelectrical activity in cervical paraspinal muscle during gait in low and high heel shoes. Acta of bioengineering and biomechanics / Wrocław University of Technology. 13. 27-33.
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