Although research is inconclusive about large breasts causing back pain, women with bigger busts recognize that more weight often equals more strain on the body. However, there are ways to improve posture and relieve back pain that account for the unique needs of women with large breasts.
What Science Says About Back Pain and Bra Size
Many publications claim that there’s no relationship between back pain and a woman’s bra size. But a 2012 study that explored the relationship between cup size and shoulder-neck pain in women suggests that we need more research to make a final decision.
The Open Orthopaedics Journal study polled women to find out how many had no, mild, or severe pain. The poll also asked women about their bra size. In general, the test showed no significant relationship between pain and a woman’s bra cup size.
However, when researchers split the results into two groups based on bra size, it was evident that women with larger cup sizes experienced more pain than their smaller-chested counterparts.
The study notes that other research speculates that “breast-related shoulder-neck pain” results from a change in gravity due to a woman’s heavy breasts. However, other conditions and activities can contribute to neck and back pain as well.
Overall, the best way to improve back pain for women with larger breasts is to focus on correcting back posture.
How to Improve Posture for Women with Large Breasts
Although many women turn to breast reduction procedures to eliminate back pain, there is conflicting information on the effectiveness of surgery. For example, as one review notes, many studies use subjective evaluations using women’s answers to questions about pain.
Although breast reduction surgery does appear to have a positive effect on the spine, women also see improvement in their posture by taking non-surgical steps first. It’s possible to reduce the long-term effects of bad posture by proactively addressing early symptoms.
Use the Right Seated Support
Buying a posture-correcting device is a simple way to start improving posture, but you should also consider how other factors affect how you move and sit upright. For example, if you slouch while sitting down, it’s crucial to recognize and adjust your posture accordingly.
According to the Mayo Clinic, good posture while sitting involves:
- Feet resting flat on the floor
- Thighs parallel to the floor
- Uncrossed legs (ankles should be in front of knees)
When choosing an office chair or other furniture that you’ll sit in while using a computer, working, reading, or eating, make sure that you can sit with your upper back and neck straight. At the same time, relax your shoulders so that you’re not sitting stiffly.
Pay attention to your posture when sitting, especially when you drive, and you may see fewer back pain symptoms. If necessary, invest in a positioning pillow for your lower back, or keep a rolled towel on hand to support your spine’s natural curve.
Choose the Right Bra (Or Not)
Many women, whether large chested or not, struggle to select the right bra fit that’s comfortable and supportive. But for women with large breasts, it’s even more difficult to find supportive bras that assist with improving posture. Here’s what you need to know about bras and bra fit.
Going Bra-Less for Breast Health
While most women would never consider going braless, especially those with a larger chest, research suggests that there are benefits to ditching bras. Medical News Today discussed the findings of a 15-year study which followed over 300 women. The study concluded that when young women ditch their bras, there are no adverse effects on the orientation of their breasts.
Women involved in the study who don’t wear bras claim that they experience little to no back pain and that their posture is ideal. However, the study doesn’t mention what bearing breast size has on the findings.
Further, the study also noted that women’s breast orientation improved overall. The findings contrast with the perception that bras offer necessary support for women, while in fact, many women are damaging their breast tissue by wearing ill-fitting bras.
Proper Bra Fit
For larger-chested women, it’s not often comfortable or feasible to go braless. Therefore, finding a bra that fits is critical for improving posture and preventing or relieving back pain.
The Bra Guide discusses posture bras which help support your chest and back by evenly distributing weight across your shoulders. They recommend posture bras for women who:
- Have larger breasts
- Have poor posture or slouch often
- Suffer from back, neck, or shoulder pain
- Work desk jobs or sit for a long time
- Experience muscle tension headaches
Although there are bras that aim to correct poor posture, you don’t necessarily need one to fix your slouching problem. Here’s what to look for when purchasing a bra, posture-correcting or otherwise:
- Wide straps which distribute the weight of your chest across your shoulders rather than cutting into your skin
- A racerback pattern that distributes weight across both your shoulders and back
- Separated cups that give each breast support
- Front closure so you don’t have to tweak your back trying to close the clasp
- A thick band that won’t roll or twist and can help distribute weight
Build More Core Muscle
A strong core can help support our bodies, and this is especially true for women with large busts. While breasts themselves are not muscles, the muscles throughout the rest of your body help to balance and stabilize your chest, spine, and more.
According to WebMD, the best way to improve your posture is to perform exercises that strengthen your core. Your core, comprised of abdominal and low back muscles, support your spine and pelvis. Muscle-building movements as well as stretching exercises like Pilates and yoga target muscles that carry your entire body, including your chest.
Fortunately, anyone can benefit from a stronger core and protected spine. Exercises for core strength include:
Single Leg Extensions
Single leg extensions help stabilize your pelvis, which carries you as you walk and move around. This lying-down move may also help relieve back pain as you stretch and work core muscles.
If you perform crunches correctly and with a smooth motion, they can help develop your abdominal muscles and your obliques, which support your waist and torso. However, you should take care to avoid strain on your neck as you pull yourself up with your abdominal muscles.
This move stems from both Pilates and yoga practices and helps work your abs, obliques, and transverse abdominis. The transverse abdominis wraps around the waist and helps keep your abs aligned with your spine. The key to a roll-up is to perform it slowly, one vertebra at a time.
A crossover helps work all your core muscles at once and functions as a reverse sit-up. It’s a stretch and muscle workout all at once, and you can increase the intensity by keeping your extended leg close to the floor.
A back extension, or Cobra pose, can help relieve back pain while working out your core. It’s a gentle exercise that strengthens the back muscles that are most susceptible to slouching.
A “plank” requires you to activate multiple muscle groups at once and can strengthen shoulder and back muscles.
Next Steps for Improving Posture
Whether you can improve your posture through consistent modification or opt for a posture-correcting brace for continuous support, you’ll likely notice less back pain and discomfort regardless of the size of your chest. Fortunately, by paying close attention to the way your body compensates, you can identify problem areas and work toward better posture immediately.