You tend to blame back pain on habits like poor posture, overly aggressive workouts, or an awkward sleeping position. But your clothes may also be to blame, says Kenneth Hansraj, M.D., chief of spine surgery at New York Spine Surgery & Rehabilitation Medicine. Specifically, outfits that are too tight, too stiff, or too constricting can limit your range of motion, which causes more stress and strain to fall on your back, neck, and shoulders, increasing your risk of pain and injury.
He says top offenders are skinny jeans, pencil skirts, and compression clothing or shapewear. but don’t worry, you don’t need to swear off fitted clothes altogether. Just opt for fabrics with a bit of stretch to them, and choose a size that’s snug—not skintight. How to tell: You should be able to easily slip a finger under the waistband of jeans and skirts, and compression gear and Spanx shouldn’t feel suffocating. If you need to take them off after eating, you could probably stand to size up.
Another common culprit for back and neck pain is your sports bra, says Hansraj. Options with thin straps or halter-style straps don’t distribute weight evenly across your shoulders. Instead, pressure is concentrated into one small spot, which forces you to slump. This is even a problem for women with smaller cup sizes, Hansraj notes. To dodge discomfort, he recommends looking for bras with thick, comfy straps.