Health

Are skinny jeans really harmful?

  • 14 March 2017
  • From the section Health
Furry hood, skinny jeans, large handbag, mule, high heels Image copyright Getty Images/PA

There has been a warning that fashion items may cause posture problems and back and neck pain.

The British Chiropractic Association (BCA) says items such as skinny jeans, high heels and handbags can "wreak havoc" on our bodies.

However, the research has been rejected by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy and other back experts.

They say we shouldn't be afraid of our clothes.

Here are the top five items which the BCA says may cause us harm.


Skinny jeans

Image copyright Getty Images

The BCA claims skinny jeans reduce mobility "even if it's just walking that you're doing".

"Restrictive clothing can lead to a loss of 'bounce' in your stride and the natural shock-absorbing qualities in your walk, causing pressure in your joints."

Oversized bags

Image copyright Eduardo Parra

The BCA claims heavy handbags are a particularly common cause of back pain in women. They advise we should avoid bags that must be carried in the crook of the arm "as the weight of these held away from your body pulls one shoulder lower than the other".

Coats with large fluffy hoods

Image copyright Getty Images

The BCA claims "large hoods can mean you strain your neck in order to see".

High heels

Image copyright Getty Images

The BCA claims high heels force us to hold our bodies "in a manner which promotes tension in your spine".

Backless shoes, eg mules

Image copyright Getty Images

The BCA claims mules have no support at the back of the foot which will increase strain on the legs and lower back.

They also warn that new trends such as as asymmetric hemlines, oversized sleeves and hoods and heavy jewellery can also create problems for the wearer.


What's the reality?

The BCA's poll of 1,062 people found 73% had suffered back pain and 33% were not aware that clothing could affect their back, neck or posture. They warn that any item of clothing that restricts movement, or that leads people to stand or walk unnaturally, can have a negative impact on the posture, back or neck.

"Our advice is to consider your back and neck health when making clothing choices - moderation of outfits that limit your movement is recommended. You should choose clothing to suit the activity you are doing and try investing in a backpack for days when you have a lot to carry around."

But Dr Mary O'Keeffe, who is a back pain expert at the University of Limerick, says their research is "complete scaremongering and there is no scientific evidence to support any of it".

"Simply put, skinny jeans, parka jackets, necklaces and any other clothing items do not cause back pain.

"There is no scientific evidence of an association. This may seem counterintuitive, as women with back pain might report back pain when wearing or carrying certain items. However, to assume that the back pain was caused by these is definitely putting the horse before the cart."

'Don't fear your clothes'

Steve Tolan, head of practice at the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, says "reading scare stories about skinny jeans is probably more harmful than actually wearing them.

"People should wear whatever is comfortable and they feel good in - skinny jeans and hoodies included. They certainly shouldn't fear that their clothes are going to do them harm as there is no evidence for that.

"What is probably more relevant is whether a woman thinks that they are wearing something that is damaging their back, says Dr O'Keeffe.

"The beliefs about the jeans and bags may not only be incorrect, but detrimental if they cause worry about the spine being fragile and discourage women from moving normally and wearing what they want.

"Misconceptions regarding the causes and treatments of low back pain are widespread. This story about skinny jeans and heavy bags is just another myth in the long list of myths about back pain.

"It fits with the misconception that load and movement are bad and that the spine is a vulnerable structure that is easily damaged. Strong evidence shows that this is not true."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Long sleeves, statement necklaces and asymmetric hems have all been seen on the catwalks at London and NY fashion weeks

What's the best advice to reduce back pain?

Experts advise:

  • keep active
  • get good quality sleep
  • reduce stress where possible
  • maintain a healthy weight
  • try not to worry, in most cases back pain gets better on its own
  • educate yourself about back pain
  • seek help if your pain doesn't improve within a few weeks or is very severe

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