If you’ve paid any attention to the Kardashians in the past few years—and, really, it’s hard not to—you may have seen pictures of them wearing what looks like a medieval torture device. Or a Victorian undergarment.
It’s called a waist trainer, and while there are serious questions about their effectiveness as a weight loss device (Kim, Khloe, and Kourtney say, “Yes,” while doctors and health experts say, “Not so fast,”) one thing is for sure: the waist trainer may cause back injuries as well as other, potentially dangerous health consequences ranging from breathing difficulty to issues with internal organs.
“When you wear this 500-year-old device, you squish your lungs and ribs, which makes it hard to breathe. Some women have actually passed out from wearing one for too long. And if you keep wearing it for an extended period of time? It ain’t pretty: Think crushed organs, compressed lungs, and fractured ribs, said Christopher Ochner, Ph.D., weight loss and nutrition expert at Mount Sinai Hospital in Marie Claire. “You can’t reduce the collection of fat in any one particular area of your body,’ he said. ‘If you push your stomach in, all the fat will go right back to where it was no matter how long [you wear the corset] for.’”
Damage to Internal Organs
Some of the most common issues with the use of waist trainers are issues that develop as a result of the body being compressed. Dr. Oz did an episode of his show that illustrated the effects they can have on the body; before-and-after MRIs done on a participant showed the diaphragm, liver, kidney, intestines, and gall bladder pushed up because they were being squeezed by the corset and indentations in the liver that were caused by the rib cage being shoved into it.
Using a waist trainer has also been said to cause dizziness and a near-constant need to urinate because of the pressure it’s putting on your bladder—not a health hazard but certainly an inconvenience.
But, prolonged use of waist trainers can create issues with the pelvic floor, which could mean trading a smaller midsection for incontinence.
“Wearing a tight waist trainer for extended periods of time will cause prolonged downwards pressure on the pelvic floor,” according to the Pelvic Exercises website. “Forcing the pelvic floor downwards increases the risk of pelvic floor strain and weakening especially during exercises or activities that are associated with increased risk of pelvic floor injury (i.e. high impact exercises, intense core exercises and heavy lifting). This foreseeably increases the risk of prolapse symptoms, incontinence or pelvic pain for women.”
Decreasing Core Strength
There is some anecdotal evidence from the Kardashians, et al, that waist trainers strengthen abdominal muscles—especially relevant for new moms looking for help to get back to their pre-baby shape. Not only is there no actual evidence that waist trainers can build your abs, the opposite may be true. “Some experts believe that regularly wearing a waist trainer can actually decrease core strength,” said Health magazine.
Waist trainers can also have serious consequences when it comes to your back. Strong core muscles are essential for a strong and healthy back, and inhibiting muscle definition in this key area can prove dangerous. “Those who have strong core muscles have a reduced rate of lower back and lower extremity injuries,” said Breaking Muscle, as well as “greater injury prevention.”
Corsets can also restrict movement, making it difficult to perform certain moves correctly, and improper movements can put strain on back muscles. Because of the restrictive nature of waist trainers, the body is forced to compensate. With natural movement limited, you may find yourself bending, turning, twisting, and crouching in abnormal ways, resulting in strain or stress your back muscles—another reason it’s important to consult your doctor instead of your favorite reality TV personality when it comes to matters of your health. The damage caused by a waist trainer could be permanent.
For more information about maintaining a healthy back, contact DISC Spine Institute, experts in minimally invasive treatments, the most effective medical procedures to treat and eliminate chronic back pain.