By Steven Hefferon, PTA, CMT
For some people, it may be difficult to see a downside to women with large breasts. But for 1 million women who are – let us say “generously endowed” – it can be a source of considerable back pain. Some women, in fact, suffer with severe pain, deteriorating posture, and are at risk for spinal deformity and other repetitive stress injuries to the shoulders and upper extremities due to their proportionately large breasts.
These problems result from changes in the normal anatomical structure caused by the excess weight on the chest and weak muscular support. Another fact related to this condition is that some women even feel ashamed and actually try to hide them buy altering their posture by allowing their shoulders to roll forward. This abnormal posture will possibly put pressure on an area of the upper body near the shoulder called the “thoracic outlet”. When this occurs, a bundle of nerves and blood vessels can become compressed and cause pain and discomfort down the upper extremities.
Very large breasts not only can cause a reduction in the normal curve of the upper and mid-back region but will potentially also cause severe low back pain. When the upper vertebrae of the spine are altered, the lower vertebrae then assume more stress. The challenge for these women is to maintain an efficient posture through proper strengthening and “CORE” stabilization exercises.
Workouts may make it worse
High impact exercise can be a challenge for women with large breasts. During vigorous workouts, the breasts will go through short vertical and linear movements often with high intensity, resulting in increased strain on supporting tissue of the breast and the supporting back muscles. The results can often be highly problematic, unless preventive measures are taken.
Physical therapy, posture exercises, and even pain medication are often a woman’s first line of defense. Many doctors recommend purchasing customized bras or sports bras that can better distribute the substantial weight of large breasts across a larger area, thereby reducing muscle strain and improving overall breast positioning. This is especially important for women with a small frame, since their breasts place stress on a more concentrated area, it may be necessary to incorporate all of the strategies to get relief.
Let me explain
Before any women begins any exercise program that is intended to help with their back pain, they need to have to have a full physical assessment performed making sure that any postural dysfunctions are accounted for and their associated muscle imbalances are corrected. Muscle imbalances can be described as one muscle group being overly strong and tight and the opposing muscle groups weaker and overly stretched out.
Postural Dysfunctions can be described as abnormal position of the pelvis or abnormal position of the upper neck, head and shoulders. As we mentioned earlier, a woman can hold her shoulders in a rounded position, thus adding the weight of the breast and you now have the shoulders internally rotated, depressed and adducted, which will pull the head forward of the shoulder which in turn will cause the neck to be pulled forward and down.
There are many other adapted responses that happen including counter balancing the weight of the body in the upper spine as well as the position of the pelvis. It is the pelvis than usually accommodates the most while also having the greatest influence on the curvature on the spine.
What you can do before the last resort
What I have just described is a process that is repeated every day and no single piece of high tech diagnostic equipment available to the medical community can systematically piece it all together. There are many chain reactions that occur to cause low back pain which is why the physical assessments are so critical.
In this case, the assessments need to take into account the postural dysfunction of the upper neck back and shoulder as well as the position of the pelvis. Which muscles are tight and overly strong and which muscles are weak and not able to support the body adequately. There needs to be a comprehensive plan to accomplish a new resting tension or elimination of the muscle imbalances. Essentially a woman will be asked to do a very unbalanced workout to get back to a more balanced state and to a point that her body can support the extra stress, throughout the rest of her life.
To learn more about how to address muscle imbalances caused by large breasts, click here. Also, be sure to watch the video below:
A last resort
Failure to address the postural issues may result in a more drastic solution. There is a steady increasing number of women are choosing is breast-reduction surgery. Make sure to use this option as a last resort, since there are many risks and negative side effects from this operation.
In addition to the external scars, scarring inside the breast may also occur. Until recently, doctors were concerned that this might interfere with the accuracy of a mammogram – and in doing so increase the risk of breast cancer.
But it turns out that for some women, breast examination and mammography may actually be easier to perform after a breast reduction. “From the standpoint of the physical exam, it may be more difficult to pick up a very small lesion [lump] in a woman with very large breasts,” says Charles Finder, M.D., a radiologist in the Food and Drug Administration’s Mammography Quality and Radiation Program.
Other drawbacks to breast-reduction surgery may include a lack of sensitivity in the nipple and a decrease in sexual response. Many doctors also caution that there can be a significant reduction in milk supply after surgery. Some women find they can’t breast feed at all.
On top of that, the average cost of breast-reduction surgery in the U.S. is close to $6,000 and can run much higher depending on where you live. As a result, many insurance companies have written breast-reduction surgery out of their coverage completely.
Fortunately, there are alternatives to surgery that can bring relief to women who suffer from back pain caused by overly large breasts. Muscle balance therapy is a safe and effective way to restore some stability to the pelvis and spine, in order to help the body tolerate the stress of everyday life for the women with larger breasts.
If you want to learn about many treatment options that are available to you, we highly recommend you get a free copy of our book – The 7 Day Back Pain Cure.