One For The Ladies – Back Breaking Bras

Of all the reasons for your back pain, did you consider that your bra could be the culprit? Wearing the wrong size bra can lead to poor posture, dysfunctional spinal segments and back pain. Did you know that those unexplained headaches, indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome or even varicose veins could be associated with wearing the wrong bra?

Up to 80% of women are wearing a bra that is probably too small in cup size or the straps are too tight or loose, with the majority of women having never been properly fitted.

Here are a few tips on how to put things right

Back Strap Problem – If the back strap is too tight, the ribs and vertebral joints can become restricted causing pain, but also change the way that you breathe. Changes in your breathing mechanics, i.e. less effective use of thediaphragm, can effect your digestion and blood flow from your legs ( we will talk about the benefits of diaphragmatic breathing in the next blog). 

The scalene muscles that attach from the neck to the upper ribs may compensate for the diaphragm not being used properly, causing them to overwork. This can lead to neck problems and even pain, tingling and numbness in the arms.

Solution – The back strap does 80% of the work so it’s important to get it right. It should be snug but not restrictive. It should be parallel to the ground at mid back level. Wear the band on the loosest hook when you first buy it, because that’s the tightest your bra will ever be.

Shoulder Strap Problem – If the shoulder straps are too tight or narrow they can put pressure on the trapezius muscles that insert from the shoulder and back into the back of the skull. Trigger points in these muscles can cause shoulder, neck and head pain. If the back strap is too loose, the shoulder straps take on too much work – shoulders are pulled forward under the weight of the breasts, causing the upper back to hunch leading to a compromised posture.

Solution  – ensure they are adjustable. If you have larger breasts, it might be worth looking for padded, wider straps to spread the load. Straps should also be parallel to one another – if they are stretching in different directions your back strap may be too small.

Cup Problem – If the bra cup is too large the breasts aren’t supported. If they are too small, can cause congestion as blood and lymphatic fluid cannot flow naturally. Breast tissue shouldn’t bulge over the top or sides.

Solution  – Moulded, non-stretch cups offer the best support. If you want to wear a bra with underwire, ensure that the wire is not lying over the breast tissue touching it – it is better for it to lie behind the breast. The bra needs to ‘tack’. The little piece of material between the cups needs to lie completely flat against your skin otherwise the cups may be too small.

It’s always best to get an expert to fit your bra – but not all of us can afford it or may be too shy to. So, when looking for a bra;

Spend a little more time and try moving about to see how it feels

Try one on that is a size bigger or smaller than you usually wear – both cup and back strap size.

Finally, always consider the situation you are in when wearing a bra – i.e. sports bras are designed to prevent excessive movement and therefore too constrictive for everyday use. As long as you are being supported most of the time, it’s really ok to wear that fashion bra for a few hours on an evening out. Don’t forget it’s also ok to go braless once and a while!

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