Wearing High Heels Could Make Your Incontinence Worse
Our pelvic health is so incredibly important to our overall health and thankfully this fact is starting to get more and more recognition with more resources and research focusing on improving this aspect of women’s health.
Pelvic floor dysfunctions such as incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, pelvic pain and low back pain are incredibly common among women (both who have had children and who have not), but they are NOT normal. In other words, there is SO much we can do to prevent and treat these dysfunctions so you can feel and move your best!
And I’m not just talking about doing Kegels. In fact, did you know that there is so many more factors to consider when it comes to our pelvic health than just training the muscles of the pelvic floor?
One of these factors is what I want to talk about today – a particular habit that can affect how your pelvic floor functions: wearing high heels.
A recent study just published earlier this year looked at the effect of certain ankle positions on the resting and maximal contraction of the pelvic floor muscles. In other words, they looked to see if there was a difference in pelvic floor muscle activity when someone was in a neutral ankle position (ie flat foot), in a plantar flexed ankle position (ie in high heels) or in a dorsi flexed ankle position (ankle flexed up).
So, let’s dive in to the study and see what the effects of wearing high heels are on your pelvic floor!
The rationale for the study:
When looking at urinary continence it is important to understand that the pelvic floor muscles form a major component of what’s called the uretrhal support system. They provide this urethral support by maintaining the constant muscle tone necessary to support the bladder neck and keep the urethral closure closed both at rest and during episodes of increased pressure (such as during a sneeze).
The Pelvic Floor muscles maintain a constant muscle tone that is necessary to keep you continent.
Previous studies have shown us that the activity of the pelvic floor muscles will change based on different body positions or postures, such as sitting, standing, or in varying degrees of pelvic tilts.
Other studies have shown that wearing high-heels will significantly change your biomechanics, posture and the way you walk, and armed with this information this study sought to determine if there would be a difference in muscle activity wearing high heels (ie plantar flexed ankle position) vs in a neutral or dorsi flexed ankle.
Authors of the study determined that there is significantly more muscle activity in the pelvic floor at rest when the ankle is in a neutral or dorsi flexed position as compared to a plantar flexed position.
This means that your pelvic floor muscles have a better ability to work and support your bladder and to keep you continent when in these positions, versus when you are wearing high heels.
Authors also determined that women had a maximal pelvic floor contraction (aka Kegel) that was much stronger when they were in the neutral or dorsi flexed positions vs in the plantar (high heel) flexed position. In other words, they were able to better consciously contract their pelvic floor when they weren’t wearing high heels.
Why this is important
The results of this study show us that women who experience pelvic floor symptoms such as stress incontinence could experience worse symptoms when wearing high heels due to the decreased support of the pelvic floor muscles in the urethral support system.
This means that women who experience leaking throughout the day could potentially improve their symptoms by opting for flatter shoe choices.
Just another reason to limit the amount of time you spend in high heels and to visit a pelvic health physiotherapist who can help you to ensure that your pelvic floor muscles are functioning as optimally as possible!
Wearing high heels leads to less activity of the pelvic floor which could mean more leaking.
Check out the study, here.