6 Bra Shopping Tips to Help Relieve Back Pain

June 02, 2019

A black bra with a fabric measuring tape.
Bana Jobe

Lace or silk? Black or red? Underwire or no?

When you're shopping for underthings, particularly bras, you've got options galore. But one thing you might not be considering — and maybe should — is finding the right bras for back pain.

Back Pain From Bra Line Areas: What to Know

If you've got large breasts, you likely know the laundry list of pain points they can cause. For one, heavy breast tissue can displace your weight forward, causing the spine to curve out like the back of a spoon and wreak havoc on your posture and back.

Beyond the physical effects, there are emotional ones, too: You might feel self-conscious about the slump, which has been shown to pack a serious blow to one's confidence.

But there are also issues linked with wearing a bra — especially if it's ill-fitting, which can cause back pain from bra line areas when the straps dig into the skin. And that can have a ripple effect on the body: In addition to hurting at the strap line, that "digging in" can compress the nerves and lead to a tingling, numbing sensation in the fingers, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Plus, in research from Orthopaedic Proceedings, a poorly fitted bra reportedly led to pain and stiffness in the back and neck.

So you're plagued with pain if you don't wear a bra — and also if you do. What's a woman to do?

The Right Bra Can Help — Here's How to Find It

The right bra type and fit can make a world of difference for your pain (and self-image, too). In the study from Orthopaedic Proceedings,for example, women who tried a mix of professionally fitted and pelvis-forward brassieres experienced improvements in their back pain frequency and intensity, neck mobility and overall discomfort.

But since everybody — and every body — is different, you'll want to keep a few things in mind when shopping for bras for back pain so that you can build a collection that's the right fit and type for your shape, size and needs. Here's how to get started:

  1. Get a professional fitting. Given that 8 in 10 women tend to wear the wrong bra size (with most of them too small, rather than too big), a professional fitting with a trained specialist can help measure your cup and bust sizes with more accuracy than self-fitting may be able to. Many stores may offer this service for free, so don't hesitate to ask!
  2. Reassess your bra after major life events. Breast sizes can change many times in a woman's life — especially during pregnancy, breastfeeding and menopause. That's why a bra fitting will never be a "one and done" experience: As your breasts change, reassess your bra size and go up or down as needed.
  3. Shop with posture and back support in mind. Many bra makers tout their products as boosting posture — and though some medical experts have disputed that claim, there's no harm in trying different types of "posture bras" to see if you like them. Good options may include those that feature separated cups, high back support and snaps in the front.
  4. Spot the signs of an ill-fitting bra. If your skin is spilling out the side of the bra or the straps dig in even after adjustments to tighten or loosen them, it's likely time for a new band size. Likewise, if the breasts overflow the bra, you might consider going up a cup or two.
  5. Let the robot size you up. As 3D body scanners gain more popularity among clothing shoppers, digital fitting tech also has its place among sellers of lingerie. For example, Soma offers a smartphone-compatible bra that serves as measuring technology for a completely customized fit.
  6. Invest in sturdy sports bras. When working out, a supportive sports bra is still your best option. Some stores go so far as to offer in-store fittings that allow shoppers to get on a treadmill to find garments that match their unique movement needs. Short of that, sports bras that feature separated cups, back snaps and wide straps (as opposed to racerbacks) are great options for women with fuller busts.

Before you start your shopping trip, keep this in mind: Factoring in all those tips doesn't doom you to something frumpy or unflattering. Bras should make you feel confident inside and out — and luckily, many back-friendly options come in different colors, styles and fabrics to help you feel your best. Just try different ones to see what works for you! Your back (and mood) may thank you.

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