One of the most common conditions that we see as massage therapists is tension in the neck and shoulders caused by poor posture. The shoulders are rounded forward which may cause the head to be further forward than ideal. The muscles of the upper back and neck are forced to work hard to compensate and headaches or stiff neck may result. There are any number of reasons why this may occur but a common cause may be an ill
fitting or incorrect bra size. Estimates vary for how many women are wearing the wrong bra with some studies finding between a third and half of women may be wearing ill-fitting bras.
There are several signs that your bra may not be fitting and supporting you as well as it should. These include
- red marks and depressions on your shoulders as the bra straps dig in.
- your breasts forced over the top of the cup
- your breasts generally looking and feeling out of shape
- the centre of the bra does not touch the sternum (breastbone).
- your bra rises up at the back and does not support the weight of your breasts.
- when you move, your bust bounces up and down and the straps fall off your shoulders unless you tighten them (causing the red marks and digging in).
Health problems that can result from wearing an ill-fitting bra or wrong bra size include back pain, headaches, neck stiffness and strained ligaments. This particularly happens when the breasts are not supported by the bra. The breast tissue rolls off the chest and under the arm which begins to pull on the neck resulting in headaches. In addition, some studies have found that breathing problems can result from wearing ill-fitting bras (particularly fashionable lingerie styles). Tight underwired bras support the bust by pressing on the rib cage which restricts the breathing and constrains the diaphragm (indeed some believe that tight bras that restrict rib cage movement may affect digestion in the form of constipation or even Irritable Bowel Syndrome).
To ensure that your bra is the right size and shape for you then ideally you consult a retailer that specialises in fitting bras so that they can measure and recommend the most suitable bra for you. Salespeople that are more interested in the colour and sex-appeal than size and style are probably to be avoided.
If you wish to check size/style yourself then ensure that
- the back of your bra does not ride up your back (the underband may be too big implying that a smaller size may be appropriate).
- the bra straps are not digging in or falling down. A wider strap may be necessary.
- your breast tissue should not squeeze over the top of the bra. If it does but the bra fine otherwise ok then you may just need a larger cup size.
- your finger should be able to pass under the front band whilst the middle of bra should lie flat against the sternum.
If you are having problems with headaches and tension in the upper back and shoulders then it may be worthwhile considering your bra (along with having a Sydney mobile massage!). However, comfort and fashion are not necessarily mutually exclusive. A correctly fitting bra may provide immediate and long term health benefits, preventing your breasts drooping later in life whilst making you look immediately slimmer.