Bras are more than fashionable undergarments. Improperly fitted or worn bras can cause a host of aches and pains.
Historians say the first bra-like garments date back to the ancient Egyptians. Over the millennia, bras have evolved but experts say the majority of women do not known the proper way to wear one. And very few physicians offer education and instruction to their female patients.
In one case reported by Dr. Raashi Khatri-Panjabi, founder of The Centre for Orofacial Pain, a 16 year-old girl started complaining about a constant, severe ache that extended down her arm to the back of her head. After numerous tests, her physician determined the teens bras were the issue.
A recent survey of American women found that although comfort was the most important factor when choosing a bra for 87 percent of women asked, more than half (59 percent) of women admitted their bra did not fit properly, and 41 percent agreed their bra doesn’t provide correct support.
A study conducted in Australia found that more than 80 percent of the women respondents didn’t know their correct bra size and that was the case with the 16 year-old. The girl bought ill-fitting, heavily padded bras that put pressure on her trapezius muscles, which extends from the base of the skull, across the back of the neck, upper shoulders and down to near the waist.
Improperly fitted bras are a leading contributor to shoulder and arm complaints; tension across the shoulders and neck; chronic headaches; cervical spine problems; and even lower back pain. Too tight of straps can contract the muscles and affect blood circulation. Some doctors even say women who suffer from acid reflux and heartburn should avoid tight bras because they constrict breathing and exacerbates those conditions. And dermatologists warn that a tight-fitting push- up bra puts pressure on your breasts, which causes red itchy bumps known as urticaria or hives.
Dr. Khatri-Panjabi explains that most women wear bras not suitable for the current size and shape of their breasts, which experts say change at least five times in a woman’s lifetime.
Another factor to consider is that most bras don’t stay the same size and after repeated wear and washing they can stretch as much as four inches over time. In addition, the right size for you from one manufacturer may not be the same for all brands. More women than not have never had a proper bra fitting, so they end up buying the wrong size.
It is recommended that women have a bra-fitting once a year to accommodate changing breast sizes caused by fluctuating weight and hormonal changes.