Waist trainers make slimming down a cinch, but are they safe?

- Dionne Pignatiello loves wearing corsets.

"They're like putting on a hug from a friend," Pignatiello says.

She's been wearing corsets since her 20's and began waist training a few years ago. She invests in high-quality custom-made corsets that can cost hundreds of dollars.  She wears one 4 or 5 times a week, even sleeps in one. Because, she says, they work.

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"Basically I have a 30-inch waist, naturally,” Pignatiello says. “And in this corset I'm wearing, I have a 24-inch waist. By regularly wearing a corset, I can reduce the size of my waist when I'm not wearing a corset."

Dr. Kristen Willett, a Doctor of Osteopathy at Resurgens Orthopaedics trained in spinal manipulation, is not a fan.

But Willett acknowledges what is old is definitely in right now.

"It's increasingly rapidly, the use,” Dr. Willett says. “People who just don't know the long-term serious effects that these can have on your body."

Willett says she’s seen the damage waist trainers can do.

"Actually just this week, I had a patient who was injured,” she says.  “Her spine was injured, wearing one of these corsets. She wore it during a Zumba class. As she now has pain shooting all the way down her leg."

Dr. Willett is concerned about long-term use of waist trainers, which she says push your stomach up, and your pelvic muscles down.   Over time, she says, that cinching can cause heartburn,  weakening of your pelvic muscles, even incontinence.  And Willett says the look doesn't last.

"As soon as you take that off, that is going to dissipate,” Willett says. “ And over time, even if you wear it for extended periods, that's not going to last very long."

Dr. Willett says she gets the attraction women - and men - have to a tiny waist.

"But as a physician,” she says, “it's really my obligation to tell them the harm they may be doing to their bodies."

Dionne Pignatiello says waist training has to be done correctly, and it requires practice.  You wouldn’t go out and run a marathon with no training, she says.   

"You always listen to your body,” Pignatiello says. “Use common sense. If something hurts, you're not doing it right, or you're corset is not right."

Both women agree -- in moderation -- waist training won't hurt you.  And Dionne Pignatiello says she’s is hooked on what a good waist trainer can do.

"I love it. I love it,” she says. “I love the way I look in a corset. I love the way it feels."

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