Degenerative Disc Disease and Breast Reduction

Degenerative Disc Disease is a disorder of the fluid-filled sacks (the discs) that separate and cushion the bones (the vertebrae) of the back. It is caused by age-related wear and tear, though not everyone suffers from this disorder.

What happens with this condition is that over time, the discs of the back lose fluid, which weakens them, leading them to develop physical damage, such as tears or bulges. With a herniated disc, the fluid actually leaks out of the disc into the back.

This disc damage, which can cause pain in its own right, can also cause pressure on the spinal cord, which causes nerve-related symptoms, such as numbness, tingling, and weakness.

After diagnosis with Degenerative Disc Disease, patients are typically counseled to avoid activities that put the back under any additional stress. What may not occur to some female patients, however, is that, their breast size may be adding to their pain, and potentially even increasing the rate of deterioration in their backs.

Breast reduction surgery is one of the most commonly performed cosmetic surgeries. Perhaps the reason for this is that, contrary to popular belief, this surgery is not performed solely for cosmetic reasons.

It has been shown that oversized breasts (scientifically termed “breast hypertrophy”) can lead to headaches, as well as upper back, shoulder, and neck pain. They have even been directly linked to painful spinal curvature, and nerve compression.

A commonly ignored but painful side-effect includes the additional discomfort of bra straps cutting into the skin of the shoulder, under the weight of large breasts.

How large breasts need to be in order to cause pain is dependent upon body size. Petite women may experience pain at a smaller breast size than larger women might.

Throughout a woman’s lifetime, her breasts are likely to change size many times, whether the changes are slight or dramatic. Many women, however, have not been properly fitted for a bra for years, if ever. They may not even know their correct bra size.

Doctors regularly see patients who have been cramming their breasts into C and D cups for years, only to find out that they should have been wearing as large a cup as a size F. Unaware of their true breast size, these patients are especially unlikely to attribute back pain to the size of their breasts.

So it is important to go in for regular bra fittings, as well as to be aware of how your bra feels at the end of the day. Are the bra straps cutting painfully into your shoulders? It may be a sign that your breasts are more than your body type is able to handle.

Contrary to what one might expect, some insurance companies do cover breast reduction surgery, (also called “breast reduction mammoplasty”) when it is proved to be medically necessary.

Since breast size can cause such painful back problems on its own, clearly a woman with Degenerative Disc Disease needs to be particularly aware of this potential problem.

Filed Under: Back Pain
Written By:  Updated:
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Jesse Cannone, CFT, CPRS, MFT

Jesse is the co-founder and visionary CEO of The Healthy Back Institute®, the world-leading source of natural back pain solutions. His mission as a former back pain sufferer is to help others live pain free without surgery and pharmaceuticals.

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