Are bras bad for you? Girl, ditch that thing, it's giving you upper back pain.
There's a reason every woman who wears a bra is ECSTATIC to get home and take her bra off. The darn thing isn't comfortable.
Why are we overriding our body's signals about discomfort?
Simply put, that's utterly ridiculous on our part. It is pure foolishness to force ourselves to be uncomfortable. And for what? Societal expectations? Because someone else told us our breasts look better in a bra? Or perhaps you were told that if you didn't wear one that you were going to end up with saggy breasts? (FYI, if you haven't seen the study done showing that women who go without bras actually have less sagging of their breasts, check it out here: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/259073#1)
Girl, it's all baloney. You need to ditch that thing whenever possible. It is doing you zero favors to have a bra on all the time.
Over the past year, I've had several women in my practice who have various musculoskeletal problems that I can trace back to their bras, myself included! So this issue is personal, and I have a bone to pick with whomever decided bras were a good idea.
Without further ado, lets take a look at our moms and see exactly why they both should toss their bras.
Hello Dani, postpartum mom of two
The first mom I'd like to introduce you to is Dani. She started physical therapy at about two years postpartum for her diastasis recti. Things were going swimmingly with her rehab, her gap was closing beautifully, she was connecting to her core again and noticing that she was getting stronger. During one of Dani's visits, she was asked by her PT if everything was going well overall. Offhandedly Dani mentioned that she was getting pain in her mid-upper back and it happened to be worse that day. She'd had this pain on the right side of her mid-upper back ever since her first pregnancy four years ago. It was fairly intense during pregnancy, but the pain went down after her first baby was born. It did not fully resolve though. The pain came back during Dani's second pregnancy and once again the pain went down after she had her baby, but it never fully resolved. According to Dani, it was more annoying this time around.
As any good PT would, Dani's PT offered to investigate. After poking, prodding, and pushing, a very tender area was found right along Dani's bra line. Her PT also found that the skin in the area was very immobile.
Skin should move smoothly over our muscles and joints. If skin is not moving well, it tells us that we have fascial restrictions that need to be addressed. Fascia is the connective tissue that holds us together and gives us shape. Fascia is continuous throughout our bodies and works sort of the way a spider web can. When you restrict one area, it will cause pull through the entire system. This can lead to some pretty interesting patterns of referred pain and imbalances throughout the musculoskeletal system and can even affect our internal organs!
Finding this area of fascial restriction was a blessing for Dani. Two sessions later and some teaching for her husband on how to release the tissue, and Dani got rid of that nagging pain along her bra line that she had had for almost five years. Pain that had become chronic was gone.
Fascial restrictions don't only show up as pain though. Come meet Alex and see how her bra started to affect her.
Alex, superstar mom of three
Alex started working with her PT a few months after the birth of her third child. She'd been to physical therapy in the past but was looking for a new one to help her with her diastasis and SI joint pain. A regular at the gym, Alex was noticing that her core was not as strong as she thought it should be, and her SI joint liked to act up seemingly out of nowhere. She and her PT worked together to stabilize Alex's SI joint and close her diastasis. Alex started doing better and better at the gym. She and her PT would then have regular appointments to address any new aches and pains that crept up courtesy of motherhood and go over exercise modifications that she could make so she was doing right by her diastasis recovery.
Several months after starting to regularly see her PT, Alex was starting to feel very strong and even started doing push ups, toes and all! The only exception was when doing oblique work in her exercise classes. For some reason, Alex was really struggling with this! She brought it up with her PT and they took a deeper dive into what was going on.
Ultimately, her PT found that Alex had fascial restrictions along her bra line on her right side.
This was restricting full rib mobility. Being that the external obliques attach to the ribs, the lack of full mobility in the ribs was making it very difficult for Alex's obliques to do their job. It also was causing some pull into her right glute and causing some significant hamstring dominance with hip extension motions. While the hamstring is very helpful for extending our hip, we need our glutes to be on board for proper pelvic stability.
Upon releasing these restrictions along her bra line, Alex noticed better glute/hamstring coordination and started having an easier time connecting to her obliques in the gym.
So why are women getting restricted along their bra line?
We can thanks Wolff's Law for this. This law says that our body structures will respond to the demands placed upon them. For example, if you want to grow your muscles, you need to lift heavy things. If you want to strengthen your bones, you need to do impact activities so they build density. If you want more flexibility, you need to stretch. On the flip side, if you don't use your muscles, they will get smaller. If you don't do any impact activities, your bones will become less dense. If you don't stretch, you won't be flexible.
So now let's apply that to this bra situation.
You wear a tight bra. Assuming you wear that bra from the moment you wake to the moment you go to bed, followed by eight hours of bra-free sleep, that bra is stopping the muscles, bones, and connective tissue in that area of your rib cage from moving properly for 16 hours every day. And the other eight hours you're not active, you're probably not stretching that area, and I'm going to guess that you're probably not getting a massage every day either.
Your body is simply doing what it is designed to do and responding to the demands placed upon it. It is reducing mobility in an area that seems to not need any. The restriction and lack of mobility is then causing pulling through the rest of your body and pain in the muscles that have to compensate for it.
Are you noticing that you've got what feels like a knot along your bra line that no amount of your SO's best massage skills will make go away? Ditch the bra and hit the contact button below. Let's get you some relief.