Is your bra causing your back pain?

Are you one of those women who cannot wait to take their bra off at the end of the day?

Are you also getting some pain in your upper back, chest, neck or shoulders? Then have you might want to have a think about your bra…

Fortunately, we are well passed the Bridgerton era of tight corseting being the fashionable norm (waist training enthusiasts excluded!).  This restrictive style of dress caused physical deformity and long-term health problems for women.

But what about our modern bras, can they also be causing us harm?

Considering that wearing a bra is something that most women do daily, there is a surprisingly limited amount of research out there about the correlation between bras, breasts and pain. Even though 50% of women report experiencing breast pain and 80% of women are wearing the wrong size bra. There is some evidence that the  backpain of women with a bigger chest size can be improved if they have correctly fitting bras. However it is a very under researched area.

So what about everyone else?

When carrying out my osteopathic examination of female patients, particularly those reporting rib, upper back or shoulder pain, it is also very common to see ill-fitting bras. 

Here are some of the common observations.

  • Women tend to always do their bras up on the tightest clasp causing an overflow of soft tissue. The rear fastenings are generally too tight; sometimes the underwear is too small even on the biggest clasp.  This is often accompanied with a lack of lower rib cage expansion with altered breathing mechanics; potentially effecting the diaphragm function.  Sometimes just dropping down to a bigger clasp can give your rib cage a little more room to breathe.
  • The shoulder straps cause dents in the the top of the shoulders.  This is true of the normal style bra straps but this is also very common in racer back style sports bras. The location of the straps also happens to be the location of the first rib and an attachment point for the scalene muscles of the neck which can contribute to neck, arm and shoulder pain.
  • Underwiring digging into breast tissue which is very problematic; there’s a reason pregnant women are advised not to wear underwiring as it can effect the glands supplying the milk.  It is just as important in non-nursing women that the wiring does not impinge on the breast tissue itself to prevent cysts.

Clinically part of my suggestion in the patient’s management plan involves trying to get a well fitted bra. But its not that easy; different manufacturers from different countries have different proportions to the frame of their bra shape.  It’s not just about bust size and cup size, the proportion has to be correct – every country bases the fit of their bras on a different female frame common on the country of manufacture.  In short, it’s a much more complicated process and its worth spending the time and money to have someone do it properly. Finding a bra fitting specialist is the key; one who understands these nuisances and investing in some new and expertly fitted bras.

If you are in pain please don’t just ignore it, sometimes there are some very simple things that can be suggested to help you manage your symptoms. To find out more about how to manage your upper back pain or to get a recommendation for a great online bra fitting expert then please get in touch.

Picture of Aimee Newton

Aimee Newton

Aimee Newton is a Tutor and Assessor for Friends of Yoga and has been teaching for 16 years. She is also a Registered Osteopath and runs popular CPD days for Yoga Teachers on Anatomy and Physiology both face to face and online.

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