In most of my articles, I tend to focus on the internal: the vast network of muscles, nerves, joints, and fascia and the interplay between them. We try to show the connection between injuries and the compensations your body makes to try and correct the localized problem,leading to an alignment pathology. What is just as important is the external or your environment. This can consist of many subcategories, but i will deal with one in this issue: clothes, shoes, and accessories. They might create your sense of fashion in the positive, but they can be a health related downfall as well.
Here are some fashion pitfalls to avoid and keep your body in a healthy state:
You ever hear of the term "If you don't use it, you lose it"? This applies to your flexibility as well. if you don't have a normal-sized stride, your hips will adapt and tighten. Take small steps because your pants have no give and you will lose that ability all together. And if you have read any of my articles, you know my golden rule of body mechanics: if one joint is not working properly, the neighboring joint takes the brunt of it. That means your back and your knees are expected to do more than they should which causes anything from chronic lumbar strains to early onset arthritis of the knee.
Note: Try wearing pants with substantial give such as Spandex or Vinyl when working out. Or you can go "old school" and just wear sweat pants or shorts.
Arch Supports and Shoes:
When i'm asked about shoes, it always seems like a frantic barrage of questions: What brand should I wear? Running shoes or cross trainers? Minimalist or well supported shoes? PLEASE HELP ME! Well my answer is, as always, "it depends"? What kind of arches do you have? If you are flat footed, you need arch supports. If you have high arches, flat soles are fine unless you have plantar fascitis (but that's a whole other issue we will discuss in another article). Brands are based off of preference. Don't fall into the peer pressure pitfall of buying the same shoes as an ultra marathoner if the only time you run is to the bathroom in the middle of the night after eating Mexican food for dinner.
Note: Many running stores have gait pressure plate machines that analyze the pressures you put when walking or running and can help you pick out something more specialized to your foot. Or you can find your local Podiatrist or physical therapist (I know a good one!) and get the most uniquely tailored shoe advice in town.
Ok men, for this one you could look away unless you are interested in "The Bro" or "The Manssiere" (Google Seinfeld if i've lost you). Most women I see with upper back pain contribute this to the extra weight in their chests. While I don't believe this is the only reason for their pain, wearing the right bra can make a big difference. Certain manufacturers have made bras that are bio-mechanically suited to redistribute the weight off your chest and into the straps of the bra. For men (if you have decided to brave this topic and keep on reading), try a compression undershirt for the same effects.
Remember, just as your muscles and joints can be manipulated, so can your environment. Being more conscious and aware of what is causing your pain can actually be the solution to your problems. By making small adjustments in your daily wardrobe, you can make a big difference!
Dr. Joshua Mazalian, DPT, OCS, CSCS is the owner of JAM Sports and Spine in Los Angeles and specializes in sports and orthopedic physical therapy. You can reach him on Twitter @jamsportsPT and Facebook as well as email at firstname.lastname@example.org