Breast Size and Upper Back Pain
Learn how breast size can affect a woman’s risk of upper back pain and what you can do about it.
The upper part of the spine is very strong, acting as an anchor to the rib cage and supporting the upper body, but it can also be prone to upper back pain. As with lower back pain, upper back pain is most often caused by strain on the muscles and ligaments from poor posture and repetitive motions.
But for women with very large breasts, it doesn’t take hours spent slouched in front of a computer or a vigorous game of tennis to cause upper back pain. Simply the weight of their breasts alone can be enough to cause back pain, sometimes even leading to long-term chronic pain that lasts for months or years.
The Link Between Large Breasts and Back Pain
Having very large breasts can place excess weight on the chest. Without enough support from the surrounding muscles and the rest of the body, the weight of the breasts can cause severe pain, make it difficult to maintain good posture, and even lead to spinal deformity. And being self-conscious about large breasts also makes some women hunch forward in an attempt to hide their chest, which can worsen existing back pain.
Very large-breasted women sometimes have to grapple not only with chronic pain in their backs and necks, but also with bra straps that dig into their skin and limitations on the activities that they can comfortably engage in.
Back Pain and Breast Size: Research Findings
Studies have shown that there can be a chain reaction of painful symptoms resulting from large breasts, as the body compensates for an abnormal position in one part of the back by shifting the position of another. Breast cups size D and above can cause upper back pain by altering the curvature of the spine, according to research, and can have an important impact on posture.
Easing the Pain: What Can Help?
If you suffer from neck or upper back pain caused by large breasts, help is available. There is no need to suffer from back pain caused by large breast size.
Options for upper back pain relief range from lifestyle changes to medications, and in severe cases even surgery. You might consider trying:
Customized bras and sports bras
Because they are specially designed, these types of bras can help distribute and support the weight of large breasts — especially for women with narrow backs, who have a more concentrated distribution of weight than women whose backs are wider.
Physical therapy and exercise
Working with a therapist or personal trainer can improve posture and encourage weight loss in women who are overweight or obese.
Taking an occasional over-the-counter pain reliever (such as ibuprofen or aspirin) when upper back pain strikes is just fine. And your doctor can prescribe stronger medication to “get you over the hump” of more severe pain caused by large breast size. But keep in mind that painkillers for back pain caused by large breasts are not intended as a long-term solution.
Breast reduction surgery
Often recommended to women with upper back pain caused by large breasts, breast reduction surgery may be the only way to permanently resolve the issue. Research published by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons found that, prior to breast reduction surgery, half of 179 women with breasts size DD or larger had almost constant upper back pain or pain in their necks, shoulders, or lower backs. After the surgery, only 10 percent of women had these symptoms.
If you are suffering from upper back pain due to large breasts, talk with your doctor. Together, you can put together a plan that will be effective for you.
By Jane Parry
Medically Reviewed by Cynthia Haines, MD
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