Pretty Hurts: Doctors Say Spanx & Other Shapewear Can Be Hazardous to Your Health

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Ladies, who doesn’t love a good pair of Spanx? In today’s society, sometimes we need a little extra help keeping things in place…especially those nights we want to slip into that really cute, really tiny black dress that makes us feel sexy!

Unfortunately, nothing good comes without a prices — and as it turns out, some doctors are saying that Spanx and other shapewear are actually bad for our health!

Huffington Post spoke to gastroenterologist Dr. John Kuemmerle, dermatologist Dr. Maryann Mikhail and chiropractor Dr. Karen Erickson who all say that shapewear is more dangerous than we think.

Basically, when you wear shapewear you’re compressing your organs…

Shapewear couldn’t do its job if it wasn’t tight. Unfortunately, this leaves your stomach, intestine and colon compressed, which Dr. Kuemmerle says can worsen acid reflux and heartburn. Restrictive clothing can also provoke erosive esophagitis.

Your digestive tract is also affected, explains Dr. Erickson. The intestines are supposed to contract and move food along, but when they’re compressed over a long period of time, the flow of digestion is stifled. “It’s like when people eat a huge meal and then unbuckle their jeans,” Dr. Kuemmerle says. This damage, though not permanent, can lead to unpleasant symptoms like abdominal discomfort, bloating and gas.

Another hallmark of shapewear? Shallow breath. When you inhale, your diaphragm expands and your abdomen flares out, Dr. Erickson says, but shapewear restricts this movement and decreases the excursion in respiration.

Which includes compressing your bowels…

Those with functional bowel disorders and irritable bowel syndrome should wear shapewear with caution. “In someone who has weakness down below and a tendency towards incontinence,” Dr. Kuemmerle explains, “increasing intra-abdominal pressure can certainly provoke episodes of incontinence.”

Dr. Erickson also notes that there can be a tendency for those wearing shapewear to not to want to go to the bathroom. “You’ve got all of this pressure on your bladder from the shapewear pressing down,” she says. “If you postpone urinating, it can cause stress incontinence, where you leak, or it can exaggerate stress incontinence with people who already have it.”

Prolonged use can develop numbness, pain, and tingling in your legs…

Sitting in shapewear can lead to a reversible condition called meralgia paresthetica, which is when the peripheral nerve in your thigh is compressed. This leads to tingling, numbness and pain in your legs, all of which can come and go or become constant. “It’s like putting these giant rubber bands around your upper thighs and tightening them when you sit,” Dr. Erickson says. (She’s also seen this condition in those who wear too-tight pantyhose and pants.)

This rubber band effect can also decrease your circulation and lead to blood clots. When you sit in shapewear, Dr. Erickson explains that those genetically prone to varicosities can develop varicose veins and lymph congestion, which manifests as swollen ankles.

If you rely on shapewear for good posture, your muscles can begin to weaken.

“Shapewear is not a substitute for having strong muscles,” Dr. Erickson says. It’s important to develop muscle tone, because it’s those muscles that hold your posture in perfect alignment. Many people use shapewear as a crutch to avoid using those muscles, Dr. Erickson says.

And don’t be fooled into thinking that shapewear works like a medical back brace. “Shapewear’s a little different in that it’s not therapeutically designed — it’s cosmetically designed,” she explains.

If that’s not scary enough, shapewear can create environments prone to infection.

Shapewear is occlusive, meaning it traps moisture and anything else under it, which predisposes shapewear wearers to both yeast and bacterial infections. Dr. Mikhail says that the most common infection she sees is folliculitis, since bacteria often gets trapped among hair follicles and causes red puss-filled bumps. “Usually folliculitis can be easily treated with topical antibiotics,” she says. “But recurrent infections may develop antibiotic resistance, meaning they get harder and harder to treat.”

Hopefully this information doesn’t scare you. With all things, shapewear is okay to be worn in moderation — just don’t get too comfortable in it!

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