You may be extra diligent about picking out healthy foods, using special beauty products, and tailoring your workout to your body's needs. And maybe you wear a fitness tracker to ensure you log all your steps for the day and set a reminder to get enough sleep. Maybe, just maybe, you even take your vitamins just like you're supposed to. But do you ever think about how your day-to-day lifestyle choices might totally derail all that time and energy spent on taking care of your body?
Surprise! Some of your accessories could actually be hurting your body. That's right—that wonky shoulder or cranky foot could be from what you're wearing on your way to the gym rather than what you're actually doing there.
1. Your Giant Shoulder Bag
There's something incredibly comforting about carrying around the entire contents of your apartment in your purse. (You might really need that lint roller and extra sweater!) But, unfortunately, hauling around something heavy on your arm or back all day can put you at risk for a lot of injuries—science says so. Carrying heavy bags even has the potential to cause nerve damage and soft tissue damage in the neck and shoulder, according to a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology.
If you wear your purse on your arm, elbow, or shoulder, it pulls on the shoulder, and you're at risk for spraining your shoulder or for damaging the rotator cuff or even the labrum (part of the shoulder joint), says Armin Tehrany, M.D., orthopedic surgeon and founder of Manhattan Orthopedic Care. It's not just carrying it that you have to worry about—the act of putting it up on your shoulder can injure you too, because it's such a heavy object. Think about it: Would you swing a heavy kettlebell up on your arm like that and haul it around? Hell no. Plus, if you're always carrying it on the same side (um, guilty!), it could put a lot of pressure on your back, risking general back pain, disc herniation, or pinched nerves, says Tehrany.
What's a girl to do? First of all, don't buy a giant, heavy purse, says Tehrany. You know you're going to load stuff in there, so make sure the bag itself isn't heavy enough to make you uncomfortable. Second, don't fill it to excess. If it's causing you any discomfort when you pick it up, ditch some stuff. And, third, either opt for a cute, lightweight backpack, or make sure you alternate which side you're carrying your bag on. Both will balance the weight better between your two shoulders—just be careful of overloading backpacks too, or it could lead to back injuries, says Tehrany.
2. Your High Heels
You probably saw this one coming. They make your legs look ~amazing~ and complete your outfit, but they're destroying your feet, one step at a time. It's pretty simple: "People are meant to walk without any shoes or socks on," says Tehrany. "So when people add high-heeled shoes or even medium-heeled shoes, the mechanics of walking change." That's a big deal because if you're not walking the way your body is meant to, you're risking injury to any bones and joints in the body from your spine down to your toes. (If you're an avid runner, you especially need these foot-care tips.)
Yes, some people are better at adapting to them (we've all got that friend who traipses to work in stilettos every day). But even if you easily adapt, the prolonged use of heels has a bunch of health risks: It can lead to structural and functional changes in the lower leg and foot, including shortening of the calf muscle, increased stiffness in the Achilles tendon, and reduced ankle mobility, according to a study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology. (Here's even more about how much high heels really hurt you.)
"By putting the feet in an abnormal position, you run the risks of strains and tendonitis in the foot and ankle," says Tehrany. "When the foot is being planted multiple times on the floor in an abnormal position, as happens when you wear heels, the risk is that ligaments or tendons that are subject to abnormal pressure can tear over time, causing an overuse injury." And, over time, arthritis can develop. For example, walking in heels causes increased pressure on the knee caps, leading to an increased risk of arthritis in the knee, according to a study published in the Journal of Orthopaedic Research.
But that doesn't mean you need to ditch your platforms right this second. "Everything in moderation," says Tehrany. Just make sure to give your feet a break by limiting your heel use to only a few days a week, taking breaks to sit, and wearing comfortable shoes for commuting, etc. (Or try this "healthy" way to wear heels with no pain.) It's as simple as this: "If it hurts, don't do it."
3. Your Phone
Obviously, we're all addicted to our cell phones. That's nothing new. "But since we're not holding our phones at eye-level, we're constantly flexing our necks and bending over slightly," says Tehrany. "Doing that too often can lead to backaches and neck aches and strains of the bones and muscles in the neck and spine."
It actually has a cute name, too: tech or text neck (though that's sometimes in reference to the wrinkles it forces you to develop on your neck and chin too). When you lean forward and look down, the weight of your head is magnified, putting more and more strain on the neck, according to the University of Nebraska Medical Center. If you've suffered lately from a tight or achy neck or back, stress headaches, or muscle spasms, this could be the culprit.
Tehrany suggests adding stretching exercises to your workouts, like hyperextensions or these yoga poses to stretch our your neck, shoulders, and traps, which can balance out the flexing that we're doing all day, every day. Also, if you have a choice between a phone screen or a desk with a computer, choose the desk and make an effort to keep your neck in a neutral position, he says.