High heels are a major source of chronic lower limb pain. Yet, more than one third of all women compromise health for looks and wear high heels on a daily basis. Changing from flat footwear to high heels induces chronic muscle shortening associated with discomfort, fatigue, reduced shock absorption, and increased injury risk. However, the long-term effects of high-heeled footwear on the musculoskeletal kinematics of the lower extremities remain poorly understood. Here we create a multiscale computational model for chronic muscle adaptation to characterize the acute and chronic effects of global muscle shortening on local sarcomere lengths. We perform a case study of a healthy female subject and show that raising the heel by 13cm shortens the gastrocnemius muscle by 5% while the Achilles tendon remains virtually unaffected. Our computational simulation indicates that muscle shortening displays significant regional variations with extreme values of 22% in the central gastrocnemius. Our model suggests that the muscle gradually adjusts to its new functional length by a chronic loss of sarcomeres in series. Sarcomere loss varies significantly across the muscle with an average loss of 9%, virtually no loss at the proximal and distal ends, and a maximum loss of 39% in the central region. These changes reposition the remaining sarcomeres back into their optimal operating regime. Computational modeling of chronic muscle shortening provides a valuable tool to shape our understanding of the underlying mechanisms of muscle adaptation. Our study could open new avenues in orthopedic surgery and enhance treatment for patients with muscle contracture caused by other conditions than high heel wear such as paralysis, muscular atrophy, and muscular dystrophy.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.jtbi.2014.10.036
View details for PubMedID 25451524
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4262722