Are skinny jeans, high heels, tattoos really a health hazard?

  • Sanchita Sharma, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Aug 12, 2015 00:12 IST

Thousands smirked as more than one story on the perils of extreme style made news earlier this week. First, the British Medical Journal reported the very odd case of a woman landed in hospital after her skinny jeans cut of blood supply to her legs. This was followed by the unceremonious collapse of a man who strapped on stilettos for a day to show the world he could walk the walk better than women.

Can ill-chosen apparel and accessories actually wreck your body? Undoubtedly. Does it mean that you should wrap yourself in swathes of natural fibre and only opt for orthopaedic shoes? Absolutely not. Unless your footwear or long scarf make you trip over and pull a ligament or break a bone or two, discomfort is temporary and damage, if any, happens because of repetitive injury over time.

So instead of sacrificing style to embrace prescription gear, the sensible option is to stop you at the first sign of red flags, which include swelling, numbness, tingling, bruising or pain.

Tight spot
The unnamed Aussie woman who collapsed did so because of nerve damage from squatting all day. The jeans aggravated the problem, but did not cause it. If skinny jeans were a real health hazard, people the world over would have been collapsing like swatted flies every day.

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Another myth is that wearing tight jeans and briefs instead of boxers makes men infertile because it raises the body’s temperature above what’s normal for sperm to survive. This popular theory is just that, a theory that has yet to be scientifically proven. More than clothes, what lowers sperm health – count, movement and shape – is smoking, drinking, drug use, weight gain and inactivity.

High and low
This was also the week when US-based video correspondent Brandon Cohen’s (photo below) hubris-destroying moment came after he declared that "girls are huge complainers, wearing heels isn't that bad" and decided to walk around all day in stilettos. His day – which he described as “the worst day of my life” -- ended with him returning home barefoot with his proverbial tail between his legs.

Shoe types classified as “bad” are those with heels over 3 inches, pumps, flat thongs and flip-flops; with hard- or rubber-soled shoes and work boots ranking average; and athletic sows being the healthiest.

High heels wreck the stabilising mechanisms of the foot by shortening the Achilles’ tendon and calf muscles, leading to calf, ankle and foot pain. They also push the body’s centre of gravity forward and increase the pressure on the knees and feet, increasing risk of injury, so only choose those that fit comfortably. Kick them off at the first sign of pain.

No flip-flop over flats
Flip-flops so popular in India hurt feet as much as heels because they offer no support or protection to the feet. They make feet roll inward, stretching ligaments and tendons, which pull toes out of alignment and causes pain and bunions (enlarged bone or tissue at the base of the big toe). Flat thongs and Roman sandals are equally problematic as they also expose the feet.

The best shoes mimic the natural shape of the feet while supporting the arch and providing flexible support to the toes. Apart from injury, bad footwear cause pain in the knees, ankles and feet, with some studies linking them to osteoarthritis of the knee.

Body piercing/tattoo
Tattoos are now almost as popular as blue denim, but most artists wielding the needle do not follow the sterile operating practices mandatory in medical centres. Contaminated equipment causes blood-borne infections, such as HIV that causes AIDS and Hepatitis C, which causes cirrhosis, liver failure and liver cancer. In the US, tattooing caused more cases of Hepatitis C infection than injecting drug use and blood transfusion, reported a study in the medical journal Hepatology.

People with tattoos are nine times more likely to be infected with hepatitis C, reported an earlier study in the journal Medicine.
An added hazard comes with laser removal of tattoos. The laser works by breaking the ink into particles that are absorbed by the body, and while how well the skin heals varies with people, some scarring and pigmentation almost always remains.

Achy-breaky head
Then there are external compression headaches and migraines triggered by tight caps, headbands, snug helmets, restrictive eyeshades and prescription glasses, and hairdos where hair is pulled back tight. In most cases, pain gets progressively worse as long as the offending trigger is in place, and removing it is all that’s needed to end the discomfort.
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