You might think we’ve come a long way since the days of corset-lacing, but have you really looked at shapewear lately? Just because it doesn’t have the boning of a corset doesn’t mean it can’t constrict in the same way. The difference now is we have many more varieties of compression clothing than they did 200 years ago.
While none of today’s shapewear is breaking ribs like corsets used to, doctors are saying it can still cause a whole host of health problems. Whether you’re using tummy tamers to squeeze into that unforgiving evening gown, or compression leggings to rev up your workout, you’re likely doing yourself a great disservice.
Dennis Cardone, D.O., physician and orthopedic surgeon at New York University Langone’s Hospital for Joint Diseases told Cosmopolitan you can develop something called meralgia paresthetica if you wear tummy tamers for too long. This scary-sounding condition means that putting prolonged pressure on your hips leads to the development of pain, tingling and numbness that can travel from your waist all the way down to your knees. It can last for days and even weeks, according to Dr. Cardone.
And it just keeps getting worse from there. You know how if you wear Spanx for too long, you start to feel nauseous and even lightheaded? Well, there’s a reason behind that, and it’s not pretty. Dr. Karen Erickson told the Huffington Post it can affect your entire digestive tract. Think of it like there are tight bands around your esophagus, stomach and intestines, and they’re constantly squeezing over several hours. Add multiple days and weeks to that, and you can see how your organs might be permanently affected.
Prolonged use can also lead to the development of acid reflux, Keri Peterson, M.D., a physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City told Women’s Health magazine. “(Shapewear) presses on your stomach, so the acid can come up into the esophagus and cause reflux and heartburn.” It can also squeeze your bladder, which can lead to leakage (for people who are prone to that), and even stress incontinence issues. Sounds super fun, right?
And here’s where the irony kicks in. Dr. Peterson (and many others) also says shapewear contributes to shallow breathing, and if it’s particularly tight, can even make you dizzy and pass out. Sound like any other “archaic” form of shapewear we know? This was the number one side effect of corset-wearing, and while modern society claims women don’t need to cinch it all up anymore, many still do in this way.
If you think wearing compression clothing when you work out improves your blood flow and overall stamina, think twice. There is actually no conclusive evidence it does anything for you while you’re working out. However, Dr. Cardone says it might help post workout, because the increased blood flow allows your muscles to recover faster.
You should also take those tight things off quickly when you’re done because they trap moisture and bacteria, says dermatologist Dr. Maryann Mikhail. If you’re a woman, and you sit around in Spanx for hours on end, you’re increasing your chances of getting yeast and other vaginal infections. In addition, compression clothing can cause folliculitis, which is infected ingrown hairs. How delightful!
To me, looking super slim is not worth all this grossness. However, if you aren’t ready to ditch your Spanx and other compression clothes just yet, try and cut down wearing time and regularity. Your organs (and skin, and chest, and legs) will thank you for it.