ACQUIRED DEFORMITIES OF THE CHEST.
In women the chest is too often subjected to deformity from the practice of compression either by the tight band round the waist or the tightly-laced corset. The tight band produces that peculiar wasp-like deformity and ugliness which is commonly called the hour-glass waist. By systematic and increasing pressure of the band the floating ribs are brought closer together, and the space between the thorax and the cavity of the abdomen is reduced, often to an extraordinary degree below what is natural to it. The tightly-fitting corset includes a larger surface in its operation. It produces narrowing of the same region of the body as the band, though perhaps not so sharply, but it also includes a considerable portion of the chest, so that the size of that cavity is greatly reduced, to the serious of the breathing space. The mischiefs resulting from these mechanically acquired deformities have been described over and over again by various writers, and I have more than once stated them before; but as they are most serious, and are still extant, I make no apology for restating them.
The effect of the pressure is equally injurious to the organs of digestion, respiration, and circulation. The liver and stomach are compressed, the digestive functions are impeded, and a distaste for solid food, with a difficulty to digest food, and with symptoms of pain and flatulency after eating, are the common proofs of the injury that is being inflicted. The great breathing muscle, the diaphragm, which separates the chest from the abdomen, and which, by its descent in contraction, causes the chest to fill with air, is impeded in its motion, amid is therefore unable to sustain a free respiration. The large veins from the lower part of the body, which pour their blood into the right side of the heart, are compressed, and in the worst instances the heart itself and the lungs themselves are actually subjected to restraint.
By these means the organs of the circulation, not less than the organs of respiration and digestion, are disturbed, to the detri ment of the whole of the body, which depends on these organs for its supplies of nervous and muscular force, and for its nutri tion in every part. To the symptoms of indigestion are added breathlessness on slight exertion or excitement, coldness of the extremities, weakness of muscles, constipation, headache, and other evils not less severe.
The effects of mechanical pressure of the kind described are not confined to the mere periods of time at which the pressure is applied. They extend to after life, and when long continued, produce an imperfect build of the chest and of the trunk of the body which is never lost. Women thus deformed, when it is _ their turn to become mothers, pay a penalty of suffering which would have been spared them if their bodies had developed into the healthy and beautiful form devised by the hand of Nature.
The evils arising from compression of the chest and body in early life are not exclusively restricted to the female sex. School boys and youths constantly practise the habit of binding up their clothes round their bodies, by means of a belt tightened firmly above the hips, instead of wearing the brace over the shoulder. Some boys and youths are also taught the plan of putting on an extra belt for " holding in the breath," before they run or leap. In the pursuit of certain active businesses in which weights have to be carried, this same system of wearing a tight belt is adopted and practised by, working men, until the artificial and ingenious support, as it is assumed to be, becomes, like the corset of the woman, a veritable injury.
To the belt the same objection applies as to the tight band and corset. It impedes the free motion of the abdominal organs; it impedes the freedom of the respiration; it interferes with the circulation in the young athletics who wear it while they are run ning, rowing, climbing, wrestling; it tends to bring on hernia, rupture.