Is Your Bra Causing Your Back Pain?
Full disclosure: This post was 100% my wife’s idea.
With many women now in the full swing of working from their kitchen tables and couches, there’s been much talk among the fairer sex about the new lack of requirement to – ahem – put on a bra. For millions of women still working from home it’s a perfectly reasonable question to ask whether the next few months are the perfect time to give their backs (and breasts) a break.
So let’s look at what the evidence says about the pros and cons of wearing a bra (or not).
Will going bra-less help my back pain?
There’s considerable research that says for many women, wearing a bra all day can be the cause of their back, neck, or chest pain. Of course, this is more true for some women than others. It’s no surprise that larger cup sizes have a bigger effect on posture and the resulting back pain than smaller cup sizes.
There are also plenty of studies that show that tight bra straps can compress nerves and negatively affect circulation. A 2000 study published by the National Institutes of Health even found that pressure caused by wearing a bra can actually disrupt your sleep cycle and circadian rhythm—even if you take off your bra long before bed.
Going bra-less gives everything – from the mammary glands and breast tissue, to the shoulders, neck, and ribcage – a breather. In fact, one study showed that going au natural could reduce the number of days women experienced breast pain by 7%.
So yes, the Covid-19 pandemic might be the perfect time to embrace the #freethenipple movement (at least temporarily).
When was the last time you went for a bra fitting?
If you do wear a bra, don’t just guess what your bra size is – get fitted by a professional.
Studies suggest that more than 80% of women are wearing the wrong bra size. Experts estimate that 70% of women are wearing bras that are too small, while 10% are wearing bras that are too big.
Finding a bra that fits well is tricky not only because sizing varies by brand, but also because of how sizes are related to one another.
Wear a sports bra when you exercise!
Even if you’re going bra-less during the pandemic, during exercise it’s important to have some support – otherwise your risk damaging the internal structure of the breast. One study found that breasts can bounce up to 21 centimeters (about eight inches) during exercise – you definitely want to reach for your sports bra before a workout!
Plus, when you don’t wear a bra while exercising, you put a lot more strain on structures in your back, neck, and shoulders as your body has to work harder to balance out the weight.
Will not wearing a bra cause sagging?
There’s no evidence that bras prevent sagging. Nor does the myth of wearing a bra to bed to keep breasts shapely and perky hold any water either. But again, it is important to wear a sports bra during exercise – particularly running – since the combination of gravity and movement can stretch breast tissue over time.
If you’re worried about sagging, you may be able to counteract it by exercising the chest muscles underneath. Push-ups (the exercise, not the type of bra) are considered particularly effective.
The bottom line: listen to your body!
Whether you should be wearing a bra really comes down to this: listen to your body. You should monitor how you’re feeling and what activities you’re doing that may require structural support more so than others. The key to wearing or not wearing a bra comes down to encouraging the body to work optimally for whatever you’re doing, not just bracing it tightly for a quick-fix solution.
Finally, if you’re experiencing back pain and can’t pinpoint it to an ill-fitting bra, give us a call. At Ascent Chiropractic, we utilize gentle spinal adjustments along with specific therapeutic exercises and stretches to relieve symptoms, correct abnormal spinal positioning and prevent future problems. To make an appointment today, call us at 262-345-4166 or use our online scheduling app.