The Connection of Large breasts, Upper Back & Neck Pain

Common reasons for discomfort/ pain when it comes to both women and back pain; physical work, injury or accidents, active sports lifestyles etc. There’s an issue specific to women: breast size.

We’re all about being happy with the body you’ve got! However, no doubt, if have large breasts, you’ll likely know that they can cause you back and neck pain or you are even experiencing that already.

The larger the cup size a woman has, research has revealed, that the more likely she is to report symptoms of severe back and neck issues. Exercise is the other thing. Often it can be more of a challenge to find fully supportive sports bras for large breasts– potentially aggravating the issue.

Let’s put some perspective here; the D-cup breasts weigh between 16-24 pounds – that’s the weight you’ll be carrying around on your rib cage and upper back. Essentially, it’s 24/7 workout!

It isn’t easy to hold up large breasts all day….you are more likely to slump – at your desk, behind the steering wheel, when queuing at the supermarket, using your phone or even in front of the TV.

Slumping forward causes your head to go into extension which is why many women with large breasts report suffering from neck pain as well as the upper back.

Large breasts change your centre of gravity, according to the same study which leads to tension in the middle and lower fibres of the upper back. The bigger your breasts, the more likely they are to move about and the harder your posterior back muscles have to work in order to balance you while walking or doing exercise. This commonly leads to a thoracic scoliosis, which is where your mid-back is pulled out of line. This shift can cause one to experience back pain.

What can I do to stop my big breasts from causing me back pain?

1. Wear the correct bra size

As much as this may sound obvious, the truth is most- 70-75% women don’t. There are signs that you could be one of those wearing the wrong size;

  • Soreness in your breast during or after work out. It is never okay. The purpose is to wear designs that reduce movement and avoid pain especially when doing high impact activities. Also that keep your back comfortable as much as they give you support.
  • You are all about style. Does the phrase ‘style over substance’ ring a bell? Probably. It is highly advisable to use the right type of bra for the right type of exercise. Doesn’t mean just because a bra looks nice and may be on sale, is suitable for your marathon training or your Yoga classes.
  • Your bra is too old. It’s worth monitoring your workout bra to check it’s giving in. Naturally, the material will wear out over time depending on how often you use it and what level of sweat you’re working up while doing so. Have a bounce up and down in the mirror every month (double check you are alone)to check if the cups are rippling (a sign they’re too big),  if the fabric has lost some of its elasticity or whether the band shifts as you move. If you answer yes to any of the above, it’s time to treat yourself. Happy shopping!
  • You haven’t pinched, pulled or personalized. Just like perfecting your poached eggs, nailing the sports bra requires a little hands-on work. Opt for styles with adjustable straps or graduated hooks that allow you to make adjustment to the fit to your body – especially important if you’re likely to lose weight as you put in regular workouts. Adjust shoulder straps so they provide support without digging in or leaving marks, and set the hooks on the loosest setting when you first begin wearing so you can tighten the bra as it begins to naturally lose elasticity.

2. Try different types of exercises

Exercises can be really beneficial when it comes to managing breast-related back or neck pain for example Yoga. If weight lifting is more of your thing, you are not limited either….it also helps.

3. Make sure you are of ideal/healthy weight

Being at healthy BMI (18.5 – 24.9) is helpful at reducing the size of your breasts even though some people will have bigger boobs whatever their weight might be.

4. Sometimes there’s need for breast reduction surgery.

It is something you may want to explore but only when the conservative treatment has not worked. Speak to your doctor first before going for this option.

If you’re struggling with back pain and you think it might be caused by your breasts, speak to your Physiotherapist to come up with a plan of action or the best ways to manage it. The primary goal is functional improvement.


Written by:
Eunice Kabana,
Physical Therapist

Large Breasts, Upper Back and Neck Pain: What’s the connection?

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