While high heels have definitely earned their spot on the painful fashion hall of shame, here are a few other types of clothes and accessories that deserve nomination.
So hip it hurts
Low-slung skinny jeans can be a pain in the butt – and they barely even cover the butt! While they're an integral part of the de facto uniform of hipsters and high-schoolers, lots of people of all ages have tried squeezing into this trendy denim style. But aside from the fumbling one must do to wear these without revealing too much, skinny jeans may also cause real, actual pain.
Tightly-fitting pants can push down on the nerve that provides sensation to the side of the thigh, causing tingling, numbness, and pain that can be burning or dull, a condition known as meralgia parasthetica. In one doctor's anecdote of the skinny-jean-pain phenomenon, women's symptoms resolved after a few weeks of not wearing the snug pants, opting instead for looser clothing.
A survey conducted by the North American Spine Society and Maidenform (makers of bras and intimate apparel) discovered that bras cause back, neck, and shoulder pain in 3 out of 5 American women. Most women cited the straps as the biggest pain, followed by the band and the shaping underwire that's added to some brassieres. Many women simply wear the wrong bra size, which can cause slipped straps, bound flesh, poor posture, and all sorts of aches and pains, especially among larger-breasted women.
Too-thin or ill-fitted bra straps not only dig into the skin, they may lead to tightening of the trapezius, the large, diamond-shaped muscles that stretch from the top of the neck down to the shoulder blades. Taut "traps" can trigger headaches in addition to the surrounding muscle aches. To find your best-matched bra, try a professional fitting. You may find it an "uplifting" experience.
George Costanza wallet syndrome
In one "Seinfeld" episode, grumpy George took his over-stuffed wallet as a point of pride, jamming more and more receipts and cards into it until he began having back pain. Turns out, George isn't the only person with "wallet sciatica." When worn in a back pocket day after day, a thick wallet can press against a muscle in the buttocks, called the piriformis, which then compresses the sciatic nerve and causes a pain in the back of the leg.
George eventually gave up on the fat wallet look, and you should, too. Choose a slim, trim wallet or stash yours in a coat pocket. Lighten your load by regularly clearing out receipts, bank slips, and rarely-used cards.
Big bag, bad back
Fashion tends to sway from one extreme to the other. Bags have lately tended to sway to the big, the bigger, and the massive. You know, the ones you see in magazines carried by one Olsen twin or another (sometimes the bags look big enough for an Olsen twin to fit inside!). The problem partly lies with the size of bags, but it's also how much we put into our bags that can cause pain. A heavy bag hung from one shoulder can throw off the body's natural balance and movement. Also, hitching one shoulder higher to carry a burdensome bag may cause the spine to turn in toward that shoulder.
Stow your essential carry-along items in smaller satchels instead. The less space you have to fill, the less you'll put in your bag, after all. When carrying a bag, switch sides regularly to avoid weighing down one side. Wider straps are better, too, as are bags with straps long enough to fit over your head, which will help distribute the most of the weight of the bag across the body. Keep in mind the 10% rule: Don't carry a bag that weighs more than 10% of your own body weight.
Headband headaches and hat-band-itis
Most women know about "ponytail headache." But did you know it's a scientifically recognized example of what's called an extracranial headache? Basically that means a headache with origins from outside of the skull. When you wear a tight headband or a snug cap, a similar tension headache can result.
What's happening is that when the connective tissues in the muscles of your scalp get pulled, tugged, or constricted, the muscles become irritated and pain results. Luckily, the pain will usually subside once the ache-inducing accessory is loosened or removed.