Back pain can be a debilitating condition. From mobility to self-esteem, it can affect all areas of your life.
With a range of different causes, it can be difficult to identify the exact source of the pain.
With chronic back pain affecting more women than men, it is important that we think about the physical differences between the sexes. One of the major differences in anatomy is the bust.
There is a lot of talk on the internet linking bras to back pain. But can this claim be proven, or are we dealing with another over-simplified solution to a complex problem?
What is Chronic Pain?
Chronic pain is generally defined as any pain that persists for more than 12 weeks. Unlike acute pains, which are short sharp pains to bring an injury to our attention, chronic pains often have no clear cause.
Though this kind of pain can be formed by an injury, its affects are felt long after the damaged tissue has healed.
If untreated, it can lead physical and psychological issues such as poor sleep, lack of appetite and depression.
Chronic pain has no easy remedy. Treatment focuses on pain management and improvement in function of the affected area.
If you believe you suffer from chronic pain, contact a health care provider for consultation.
Why Wear Bras?
The earliest known use of the bra was in Ancient Greece, were women would bind their breasts with strips of fabric.
The bra has been reinterpreted by many cultures throughout history, as it slowly evolved into what women wear today.
However, when some women choose not to wear bras at all, what functions can we rely on the undergarment to provide?
- Movement – One of the major benefits of a bra is that it inhibits the movement of the breasts during periods of physical action. Without a bra, breasts can collide with the chest and each other, causing pain.
- Cosmetic – Other functions are mostly aesthetic. They can disguise the outline of the nipple, align the shape of breasts with the cut of clothing, and exaggerate cleavage.
- Sweat – The underside of the breast is prone to sweat. Most bras utilize a band of material that absorbs the sweat, while the structure of the bra lifts the breast to prevent uncomfortable friction and heat.
- Friction – This is a function of most underwear. Breasts can be a sensitive bodily area, and friction between the skin and clothing can be uncomfortable. Bras can form a soft barrier between body and fabric.
- Weight – Bras work as a support structure for the bust. The straps are designed to distribute the weight of breasts more evenly around the body.
We often hear that 80% of women wear the wrong size bra. This statement can be debated, however, we do know that ill-fitting bras can cause serious health issues.
- Most of the bust’s weight should be held by the bra’s rear band. If poorly fitted, this weight shifts to the shoulders causing upper back pain and headaches.
- Lumps of fat can form where the strap meets the back if a bra is too large.
- Lesions and scars can appear on the skin if the bra is too small.
- Movement is restricted when a bra too tight.
- The bra can dig into the stomach area causing abdominal pains and indigestion.
It is important to remember that your body is constantly changing, this means your bra size will too.
Before Linking Your Bra to Back Pain
As previously noted, chronic back pain has many causes. Before attributing it to your bra you should consider some of these other possibilities:
- Arthritis can cause back pain as you grow older.
- Strained ligaments and muscles are a fairly common issue.
- Poor posture while lifting.
- Overly soft mattresses and sleeping disorders.
- Sciatica and other spine related issues.
- Shingles and other nerve infections.
These can be often be caused by the following issues:
- Depression and anxiety.
- Physically and Psychologically demanding jobs.
- Obesity and lack of exercise.
- Previous back injuries.
Large Breasts and Back Pain
If you have large breasts it can be difficult finding a comfortable bra from many commercial retailers.
Breasts are mainly fatty tissue, not muscle, and as such they can be a heavy part of the body. They can put excess stress of the chest and the ligaments that hold them in place.
Large breasts can cause poor posture and in some extreme cases, curvature of the spine. Posture and the distribution of weight across the body are strongly linked to chronic back pain.
There are various invasive and non-invasive solutions for back pain caused by large breasts.
Here are a few of the more common treatments:
- Regular exercise helps with the strengthening of the core.
- Calcium and Vitamin D supplements can strengthen the bones of the back.
- Support bras, with vertical oriented straps and bands with a greater width are best for weight distribution.
- Not wearing a bra at all can aid with muscle growth and ligament strength.
- Breast reduction surgery.
With posture being such an important element of back pain, here are a few exercises that you may find helpful:
- Planks, squats, stomach crunches all help strengthen the core.
- The training of the gluteus and abdominal wall take the weight burden away from the back.
- Stretching before and after exercise will stop the straining of important back muscles.
- Regular massage or physiotherapy can ease the strain in the back.
Chronic back pain can be caused by many physical issues, most of which will not make themselves immediately apparent.
While bras can be a contributing element towards this pain, unless you have a large bust, it is unlikely to be the only cause.
The most important thing to take away is the knowledge that a well-fitted bra can be essential to your health.
The even distribution of weight provided by a properly fitting bra can help diminish or prevent chronic back pain.
An ill-fitting bra can strain muscles, damage nerves, and affect your digestion.
If you have large breasts, specialist support bras can provide you with relief from some of these symptoms.
With chronic back pain it is always important to consult your health care provider.