Spanx, and other shapewear meant to provide a slimmer look and smoother lines, may be leading to physical harm, especially when multiple Spanx and shapewear are worn or when the shapewear items are worn in sizes that are too small.
The shapewear is meant to be worn under clothing and experts are saying that the slimming under garments are compressing organs. The Huffington Post discussed the trendy slimming garments with three medical professionals: gastroenterologist, Dr. John Kuemmerle; dermatologist, Dr. Maryann Mikhail; and chiropractor, Dr. Karen Erickson. The media outlet sought to understand if Spanx and other types of shapewear are harming wearers bodies.
Shapewear, to provide a sleek, no-line look and give a slimmer appearance, must be tight. It is the tightness of the garments that may, says Dr. Kuemmerle, compress the wearer’s stomach, intestines, and colon. Body shapers may also worsen acid reflux and may lead to erosive esophagitis, according to The Huffington Post. Dr. Erickson pointed out that the digestive tract may also be impacted. Intestines contract, enabling food to travel through the body. Over time, this compression suppresses digestive flow. “It’s like when people eat a huge meal and then unbuckle their jeans,” Dr. Kuemmerle says.
Neurologist, Orly Avitzur, MD, who is a medical advisor for Consumer Reports, told WebMD that, wearing shapewear that is too tight might cause health issues. “Any time we put on really tight garments, we take the risk of compressing organs or nerves.” Avitzur, MD, also says that she has treated patients who have complained of tingling and numbness that was ultimately traced to restrictive clothing, such as Spanx and other shapewear.
Meanwhile, there is a celebrity trend that is becoming popular and which involves wearing layers of shapewear. According to Avitzur, MD, this practice increases the potential for nerve or organ compression, WebMD reported. Compression problems being seen with shapewear, includes respiratory issues, such as shallow breath. During typical, normal inhalation, the diaphragm expands, which flares the abdomen outward, Dr. Erickson says, according to The Huffington Post. Spanx and other shapewear restricts and interrupts the normal breathing process.
Dr. Kuemmerle also pointed out that people who are diagnosed with bowl disorders should exercise caution when considering wearing Spanx and other shapewear. “In someone who has weakness down below and a tendency towards incontinence,” Dr. Kuemmerle told The Huffington Post, “increasing intra-abdominal pressure can certainly provoke episodes of incontinence.” Also, “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.”
Sitting in shapewear may also lead to a condition known as meralgia paresthetica, which has to do with compression of the thigh’s peripheral nerve. This may lead to tingling, numbness, and leg pain, which may be intermittent or constant. “It’s like putting these giant rubber bands around your upper thighs and tightening them when you sit,” Dr. Erickson says, wrote The Huffington Post. This may also lead to a decrease in circulation, which can increase the likelihood of blood clots and, in people who are susceptible to varicosities, varicose veins and lymph congestions, which may be seen as swollen ankles, may also occur.
Shapewear may create an environment that also enables infections because the garments are moisture trapping—occlusive. This may include yeast and bacterial infections, and folliculitis, which are red, pus-filled bumps, says Dr. Mikhail. If allowed to repeat folliculitis may become dangerous. “But recurrent infections may develop antibiotic resistance, meaning they get harder and harder to treat,” Dr. Mikhail told The Huffington Post.