I often recommend that my patients buy specially designed “orthopedic” products – shoes, pillows, mattresses – to safeguard and preserve their health. Many of them feel this is an unnecessary expense and it makes them feel “old” using such products. However, when I tell them how many health benefits are associated with using orthopedically correct products that can prevent further complications to their health and help them stay younger by using them, they begin to listen more closely. Here’s what I tell my patients about two of the most important products that affect your immediate and future health – shoes and mattresses.
Safeguard Your Health – Buy Orthopedic
Some years ago there was a television show called Sex and The City where the main character, Carrie Bradshaw, had an obsession with buying spiky, high-heeled shoes that were beautiful, and very expensive. She was seen wearing stilettos, running for a taxi and even walking her boyfriend’s dog! As an orthopedic doctor, I’d think to myself, she may be enjoying those sexy shoes now when she’s young, running around the streets of Manhattan, but one day she’ll suffer from the damage the high heels are doing to her feet, legs and body. And if she had any other specific health conditions, like diabetes, or peripheral vascular disease, these types of shoes could greatly aggravate and worsen the conditions.
It’s not just the ladies that suffer. Foot damage from ill-fitting shoes can occur to men as well. Too tight toe boxes, too tight laces, too high heels, or just rigid materials can lead to a whole host of foot, leg and body woes. Here are some of the ill effects bad shoes can cause:
1. Ingrown toenails. Nails grow into the surrounding skin from being tightly crowded in a toe box. This can cause infection and require the removal of the entire nail. A simple-sounding ingrown toenail can present a significant problem to a diabetic and lead to serious consequences.
2. Heel and ankle pain. Orthopedic and podiatry research has shown that wearing high heels constantly can result in heel and ankle pain, not only now, but as you get older. This occurred in about 60% of older women and about 2% of men. In fact 8 out of 10 women who wear high heels have some form of injury to the feet, legs or knees. Another painful condition, plantar fasciitis – inflammation and tears of the plantar fascia muscle that runs along the bottom of the foot – occur frequently and requires wrapping the foot and staying off it for many weeks.
3. Osteoarthritis. Wearing high heels can result in arthritic damage to the knees by placing pressure on the inner knee joint. Even wearing flip flops, the complete opposite, flat with no support, can throw off gait and posture damaging joints and calf muscles.
4. Back/hip pain/sciatica. When your gait and posture are thrown off it repositions the lower back. Pain, sciatic nerve root irritation/inflammation, and chronic hip discomfort can result.
“Orthopedic” does not have to mean, boxy, unattractive, fashion-less shoes. Choose quality-made shoes of sturdy materials that fit the proper width and length of your foot, give enough room in the toe box, and have no more than a 2” heel. The correct width of shoe and toe box prevents pressure on the sides of feet and tops of toes that can result in foot damage.
You’ve likely watched commercials showing people losing sleep, tossing and turning on their uncomfortable mattresses. The next-day you see them suffering the consequences like a stiff neck, sore back, and grumpy disposition. You may think this is just a sales ploy to get you to buy an expensive mattress. Well, it is, but it’s also true that sleeping on an inferior mattress can seriously disrupt your health both presently and in the future. Buying a more orthopedic-correct mattress can significantly enhance your health by improving your sleep.
You spend 1/3 of your life sleeping – that’s 1/3 of your life spent repairing your body, the main function of sleep. If your sleep quality is poor, your body cannot repair itself sufficiently which may lead to a domino effect of ill health. An inferior mattress causes pressure points on parts of your body that make you toss and turn all night to alleviate them. Pressure can further irritate nerves along your spine, creating pain, numbness or tingling throughout your body. Beds that have adjustable air mattresses, like Sleep-Number type products, help create the correct firmness for your individual body that prevents troublesome pressure points from developing. Some beds have adjustable parts that elevate the head or foot of the bed, assisting people with special health requirements such as vascular or respiratory problems.
Secondly, many commercial mattresses (most notably memory foam and latex, petroleum based products, plastics) and pillows contain chemicals that can lead to a whole host of symptoms like headaches, nausea, hives, wheezing, etc. Many mattresses/pillows contain fire retardant chemicals that can give off gas. You may breathe these chemical residues at close range for several hours at a time. Research has shown that many of these chemicals are carcinogenic and chronic exposure can put your health at risk. If possible, I recommend covering the new mattress with a waterproof mattress cover before you putting on bedclothes.
As I tell my patients, using “orthopedic” products, like proper fitting shoes and mattresses, doesn’t signify getting “old”. In fact, using orthopedic products can keep you more youthful by helping your body work efficiently, allowing you to enjoy your life well into your 100’s!
Mark Bromson, M.D.
Natural Health News
Don’t Lose Sleep Over Your Bad Mattress, http://www.stbotanica.com/blog/avoid-sleeping-on-a-bad-mattress/
Fashion’s High Price: How Heels Damage the Body, http://www.livescience.com/18690-high-heels-foot-damage.html
Chemicals in Mattresses and Pillows Linked to Many Illnesses, http://www.chem-tox.com/guest/guestbook.html