How to Stop Breasts Causing Back Pain
Did you know, the heaviest natural breasts on the planet belong to Annie Hawkins-Taylor and weigh a colossal 40kg?
Annie’s 102ZZZ assets might be exceptional, but it is not uncommon for breasts to weigh a kilogram, and even more if you have larger than average breasts.
And because of your anatomy, all of their weight is supported by your shoulders and upper back.
It is not surprising then that breasts can be a significant contributor to neck, shoulder and back pain.
What are the Most Common Symptoms Related to Having Large Breasts?
Large breasts, or macromastia, can be associated with a range of musculoskeletal symptoms.
Aside from bra-straps digging in, macromastia can contribute to neck pain, shoulder pain, and both upper and lower back pain. Headaches can also occur alongside neck pain.
Pain can be aching, burning, dull or sharp. Pain can move around, affecting your lower back on one day and your upper back on another day.
Sometimes the whole of your back/shoulders/neck can be affected at once. Usually pain is mostly symmetrical, affecting both the left and right hand sides of your body equally.
The intensity of symptoms can vary greatly from person to person, but also from day to day.
Day to day variations in symptoms reflect other influences on your pain, such as activity, stress levels and sleep.
Why do Large Breasts Cause Back Pain?
As you might expect, more weight on the front of the body means the muscles at the back of the body have to work harder to keep you upright.
This extra work causes fatigue in those muscles, leading to pain.
When muscles are working hard for long periods, this has an effect on nearby joints.
Muscles in your spine cross over numerous joints, and when a muscle is working joints can be prevented from moving freely.
Joint stiffness is another common cause of pain associated with macromastia, particularly neck and back pain.
Some studies have reported that women with larger breasts have slightly different postures to those with smaller breasts.
In these studies researchers have found that women with larger breasts have a slightly accentuated forward curve at the base of their neck.
It is not clear whether this postural change alone is enough to cause pain, but it seems likely that it is a result of loading from breast tissue.
Ill-fitting bras can be a problem for women of all sizes and, fortunately, choice in this area seems to have improved in recent years.
How Big do Breasts Need to be to Cause Back Pain?
The size, and therefore weight, of your breasts plays a big part in affecting whether you get breast-related back pain or not.
There is little research to define how large breasts need to be before they start causing problems.
The reason this is so difficult to study is because back, neck and shoulder pains are influenced by a large number of factors.
Your muscular strength, height, activity levels, posture and so on, all contribute to your likelihood of experiencing pain.
Generally speaking, however, we can say that the heavier your breasts the more likely they are to contribute to back and neck pain.
What Can I do to Ease Breast-Related Back Pain?
Our chiropractors routinely help women with the above problems, so if you are struggling with back pain, shoulder pain, neck pain or headaches, get in touch.
Fortunately, there are also loads of things that you can do yourself to ease pain associated with macromastia.
- Move more
Your body hates being in one position for any length of time. It craves Moving more is one the most important things to do if you have musculoskeletal pain of any cause. For women with macromastia, moving more means redistributing some of the load on your back muscles, giving them chance to rest while other muscles take over. Moving more could mean changing your sitting posture at your desk frequently, or alternating between sitting down and standing up. Get up and walk around, try Yoga or Pilates, watch tv whilst lying down just for a change. You really can’t go wrong as long as you moving regularly.
If you have large breasts, your body is being pulled forwards more than average. As we’ve mentioned, this may affect your posture. Try stretches that lean you backwards. Bruger breaks are brilliant. You could try leaning backwards over something like a cushion or pillow too. Stretching the muscles at the front of your chest can be really helpful, so try “pec” and “lat” stretching throughout the day.
- Maintain a healthy weight
This is probably the message women with macromastia are most tired of hearing. Most women are very well aware of the impact their weight has on their bust size. The reason we bring it up here is because it is such an important and controllable factor. It isn’t always easy to exercise if you have a larger chest, sports bras can be a nightmare and running can be out of the question, but there are so many options that help people maintain a healthy weight.
After maintaining a healthy weight, strengthening is probably the most important thing that women with macromastia can do to prevent pain. A major reason large breasts cause pain is because muscles are unable to cope with the demand placed on them by weighty breast tissue. Building those muscles up using strengthening exercises is a simple way of preventing pain. Almost any strength exercise is going to be good, but things targeting your back like deadlifts and rows, and targeting your shoulders like deltoid raises and shoulder presses, are most likely to help. Good core stability is also a must, with bird-dog and plank-type exercises being particularly useful.
- Magnesium Oil
When muscles are working hard for a long time, they get in the habit of clenching. This can mean that they continue working even when they shouldn’t. Magnesium is a muscle relaxant that can be purchased as an oil. Rubbing this across your back, neck or shoulders in an evening can go some way towards helping those muscles relax after a hard day.
- Well-fitted bra
Another way of helping relax clenching and fatigued muscles. You don’t need to fork out for an expensive spa day all the time, though. Anybody can do the job. A partner or spouse can massage the right areas with your guidance – just get them to head for the sore spots. You can even buy self-massage tools, from simple plastic devices that you can hook over your shoulders to vibrating, pulsing contraptions. They all work in much the same way, so just try a few methods and see what works best for you.
- Topical gels
Some gels and rubs, particularly those providing a hot or a cold sensation, can be helpful. They act by clogging your pain-sensitive nerves, preventing pain signals from getting to your brain.
- Breathing exercises
Amazingly, most of us breathe sub-optimally. We use our shoulder, neck and upper back muscles to lift our rib-cage, drawing in air. This causes fatigue and tightness in these muscles, leading to aches and pains. This effect is compounded if your muscles are already fatigued from supporting breast tissue. Taking a few minutes periodically throughout the day to do some abdominal breathing gives your neck and shoulder muscles a bit of break, preventing the pain that comes from over-use.
Like all areas of healthcare, there are some myths about what might help. We advise against the following as, not only bringing little benefit, but also potentially causing harm.
- Posture braces
Taking some load off your muscles seems like a great idea, but posture braces cause more problems than they solve, leading to short and weak muscles, which is a recipe for more pain.
- Anti-inflammatory rubs
Anti-inflammatories are helpful for musculoskeletal pain, but should only be taken for a short time. Anti-inflammatory gels purport to target the delivery of medication to sensitive areas, but the actual amount of drug absorbed through the skin is very small.
While it is sensible to try and off-load the muscles in your neck and shoulders that are tight and sore, being more sedentary is a risk factor for musculoskeletal pain. The more sedentary you are, the more likely you are to be in pain.
Can Chiropractors Help if Back/Neck Pain is Caused by Large Bust?
Yes. Chiropractors are very likely to be able to help if you have back pain, neck pain, headaches or shoulder problems that you feel are related to breast size.
Using targeted manual therapy, chiropractors will help keep your body working properly and your posture optimal, even though you are subject to increased daily strains.
At Worcester Chiropractic Clinic, our chiropractors are also trained to provide bespoke rehabilitative exercises, helping you keep symptoms at bay in the longer term.
Macromastia does not prevent chiropractic treatment, although your chiropractor may make some adaptations to treatment technique to make the process more comfortable for you.
We have adaptable benches and purpose made treatment cushions to help find the most comfortable position to treat you in.
What About Breast Reductions?
Breast reduction surgery is available for women who are persistently in pain as a result of macromastia, and for whom other methods of pain prevention have proven unsuccessful.
As with any surgery, there are risks to breast reduction surgery, so it is important to ensure other factors affecting your symptoms have been dealt with.
Most surgeons will advise a fairly stringent weight-loss regime prior to surgery also. This can significantly affect breast size and means less tissue needs to be removed.
If surgery seems like the best route, our chiropractors would write a report of findings and treatment outcomes that could help progress matters.