Well Being

Can High-Heels Really Cause Migraines? Possibly.

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Michele BachmannCan heels cause headaches? Last week, presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann was roundly laughed at for claiming high heels triggered her migraines, but I’m not sure why everyone think it’s so ridiculous.

Wearing heels can be bad for us in a number of ways. There are the obvious ones: Blisters, sore feet, ankle pain. But studies have also found women who frequently wore high heels had shorter calf muscles and stiffer, thicker Achilles tendons that women who didn’t (setting them up for serious pain), and that wearing heels can contribute to knee arthritis and nerve damage. It can also drive your spine out of alignment and put muscular tension on your back—both of which can contribute to tension and perhaps other kinds of headaches.

Time quoted the executive chairman of the National Headache Foundation saying, “I’ve been in practice almost 50 years treating headaches, and I’ve never seen heels as a cause of them. I think the stress of the campaign would more often be the provoker.”

Funny, because I think a person suffering from migraine headaches would have a better idea what provokes them than a random doctor who’s never met her. Having suffered from migraines most of my life, I know that all sorts of weird stuff can provoke them (for me, theater rehearsal was a really common trigger, which I’m pretty sure isn’t in the medical literature either). And this New York Times blog post, ‘What Migraines? New Yorkers Defend Their High Heels,’ is just silly and snotty; saying that because not all high-heel wearers get headaches, none possibly could is like saying that just because I can eat peanuts, there’s no such thing as a peanut allergy.

Now, why Bachmann continues to wear high heels even if they trigger migraines for another time either says a lot about her, what’s expected of women in politics, or both. But we’ll leave that for another time and place …