Battling the extreme humidity that the monsoon brings, we must admit, we’re half tempted to whip off our bras and dump them in our handbags, for just a momentary respite. We don’t know about you, but wearing an ‘over the shoulder boulder holder’ in this sultry weather delivers a whole host of nightmares: boob sweat, chaffing, fabric discolouration… So, that’s why we consulted a range of experts to find out to find out the pros and cons of wearing a bra, and to ask whether it’s really time to #freethenipple?
The back expert
Ask yourself: When was the last time you went for a bra fitting? Well, now might be the time to book an appointment, as studies estimate that more than 80 per cent of women are wearing the wrong bra size. To make matters worse, 70 per cent of us are wearing bras that are too small, while 10 per cent are wearing bras that are too big.
In addition, according to The Institute of Osteopathy there’s evidence that larger breast/cup sizes can be a contributing factor to changes in your posture, which in turn may lead to musculoskeletal pain.
As a result, we spoke to Robin Lansman, osteopath and media spokesperson for the Institute of Osteopathy to find out whether bras help or hinder our boobs:
Is it a myth than poorly fitting bras cause back pain?
It depends on which type of bra you wear (an everyday bra, a sports bra etc) and a woman’s build. There’s also a myriad of factors that can contribute to a woman’s back pain. For example, some women are less comfortable with their shape so may slump or arch their shoulders, which will have a big effect on how the back muscles affect their posture. When it comes to women’s musculoskeletal pain and breasts, it’s not just as a result of their size and bra.
Should we be wearing sports bras all the time instead of pretty bras?
Not necessarily. Sports bras can often provide too much support and prevent the ribcage from functioning properly, therefore weakening back muscles and straining the breast ligaments. However, if you do regular exercise, it’s important to have some support otherwise you risk damaging the internal structure of the breast. When you don’t wear a bra during a workout, your back, neck muscles, and trapezius (a major muscle in the back) are also going to have to work a lot harder to balance out your weight.
Like changing swimming strokes, variety is good when it comes to wearing a bra. You should monitor how you’re feeling and what activities you’re doing that may require structural support more so than others. The key to wearing or not wearing a bra comes down to encouraging the body to learn how to work, not just bracing it tightly for a quick fix solution to back pain and postural problems.
Are bras purely cosmetic?
Not at all. The bra’s main function is to support the weight and structure of the breast. However, women often have a lot of tension and stiffness localised where the bra strap is placed. Tight bras can also severely affect the ribcage, as well as cause back and neck pain.
If bra straps are loose and the back strap is tight, it will result in incorrect balance. People often rely on the wrong bit of the bra – the back strap – without thinking of the uplift support. For example, if you’re wearing an underwire bra without straps, it’s virtually pointless.
In conjunction with regular bra fittings, women who suffer from back pain should consult an osteopath on how they move, the effects of their working and home environment, and get a list of exercises to help their mobility. Bras help muscles and the spine get into a better position, but it’s not a one-stop solution.
If you don’t wear a bra, what should you do to strengthen your core, back and shoulder muscles to prevent pain?
Stretching and activating muscles rather than strengthening is key to creating a strong muscle grouping. Floor-based breathing exercises which don’t demand anything on the posture will help, as well as using resistance bands that activate the muscles without overloading them.
An application of heat to stimulate blood flow to postural muscles should also be considered as well as a change of pillows. Consult an osteopath or GP for more information.
The Styling Expert
When it comes to buying bras, we’re ashamed to admit we can probably count on one hand how many times we’ve chosen to splash the cash on a well-fitted lace balconette bra than buying a round of drinks in the pub.
However, Rigby & Peller lingerie styling specialist Josie Fellows is here to explain why buying new bras should be seen as essential as visiting the dentist and not just another pay-day treat:
What are the health benefits of wearing a bra?
If a bra band fits correctly and is firm, the weight of the bust will be distributed which means the major muscle groups in the back, neck and shoulders won’t be put under any strain. In some cases, breathing can also feel easier as a correctly-fitted bra will lift the bust off of the ribcage. In addition, there’s also the obvious effect that a well-fitted bra is good for self-esteem and confidence.
Well, what makes a good fitting bra?
There are 6 steps to ensuring a good fitting bra:
- Band – 80 per cent of the support comes from the back band, therefore this must feel firm and not tight.
- Wires – when fitting we have to ensure the wires are sitting away from the breast tissue and, instead, sit on the rib cage.
- Cups – we want the cups to encompass the whole bust ensuring there isn’t any overspill or gaping.
- Straps – only 10 per cent of the support of a bra comes from the straps. The straps are not there to hold the bust up – that is the job of the back band. They should sit comfortably on your shoulders, not digging in but not slipping off. A rule of thumb is that you should be able to fit two fingers under each strap comfortably.
- Bridge – the bridge of the bra (the centre front part) should ideally sit flat against the body.
- How it feels – being comfortable is the most important factor. If you feel uncomfortable in a bra, the likelihood is is that you won’t wear it. Therefore, a different style or shape may be better.
Should we be wearing a bra 24/7 or is it good to give our boobs a break?
We wouldn’t recommend that you wear an underwired bra all day and all night. However, many of our clients find it comfortable to sleep in a non-wired bra in bed as it provides support, so it comes down to personal preference.
Are bralettes actually better for us when it comes to support and structure?
For a fuller busted lady, a bralette may not provide enough support and they would benefit more from wearing a well-fitted underwired bra. For smaller busts, bralettes are a great addition to a lingerie wardrobe but there are other shapes which would give better support and structure.
Will not wearing a bra make our boobs sag?
There’s no evidence that breast sagging is caused by not wearing a bra. Instead, there are a lot of biological and genetic factors that increase or decrease the likelihood of breast sagging. We do, however, recommend that you wear a sports bra during sports as not doing so can increase the risk of damage to the Cooper’s Ligaments in your bust.
Can underwiring in bras do any damage to our health?
The most important thing when you wear an underwired bra is that the wire sits behind the breast tissue, never on it. The best way to check this is to gently press against your wire – if the wire bounces back, this is an indication that it is sitting on tissue, not the rib cage. Flexible wires and wires that have padded casing around them will also feel more comfortable.
How often should we wash our bras and buy news ones?
Hand wash your lingerie, preferably after two or three wears. You should have a bra consultation at least every six months to make sure your bras are still fitting as they should and to keep your wardrobe updated . If you wear one bra every day the life of the bra is going to be around three months but if that bra is worn on rotation with others, there will be increased longevity.
Are there some fabrics that are better for our skin than others when it comes to irritation?
Similar to skin type and washing powder, we all react differently to different fabrics. Some clients can’t wear lace and can also opt for cotton options.
From: ELLE UK