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Here’s the thing about bras: They have the potential to make you feel far more comfortable — but only if they are right for you. Ultimately, it all comes down to the fit — when a bra is the perfect size and style for your breasts, you’ll feel supported, secure, and confident, and your ensembles look even better. However, when a bra doesn’t fit properly or isn’t well suited to your breast shape, you could be in for a world of discomfort.

One of those issues is back and shoulder pain, an especially common problem for women who are full-busted. But is your bra to blame for it? And if so, what can you do about it? Read on to find out.

Can my bra cause back and shoulder pain?

Here’s the short answer to this common question: Yes, it can. In fact, Richard Moore, a consultant osteopath and sports massage therapist, told The Daily Mail that he has been able to directly link female patients’ back and neck problems to ill-fitting bras many times. This can happen for a multitude of reasons.

For example, if your bra straps are too tight, they can actually put too much pressure on the nerves along your shoulders and reduce blood flow, causing ulnar neuropathy, a disorder that results in tingling and numbness.

This may come as a surprise, but a band that’s too loose can also be the culprit. When the underband is too big, it will start to gradually ride up your back. As the band rises higher, your shoulders start to slump forward, causing strain on the muscles in your upper back. Over time, this can lead to all kinds of postural problems, as well as some pain, particularly in between your shoulder blades.

While the band should fit snugly, it’s actually less supportive when it’s too small, and when the breasts aren’t properly supported, the sheer weight of them will cause the shoulders to roll forward, putting some strain on the middle and upper back (as well as causing some unsightly hunching).

Related: Is Your Bra Too Small?

How can I prevent the pain?

First things first: You need to make sure you’re wearing the right size if you want to avoid back and shoulder pain. So, if your last professional fitting was more than six months ago, it’s time to see an expert to get measured.

Beyond knowing and wearing your proper size, you should also consider certain bra features that can be helpful for warding off any pain. Wide shoulder straps, for example, are key — especially for those with larger busts. Studies have shown that this feature is particularly important for sports bras worn during exercise. Wide straps can distribute the weight of the breasts more effectively, taking the strain off your shoulders. You may also find styles with cushioned straps to be particularly comfortable.

Many women tend to tighten their bra straps too much to achieve more lift, but keep in mind that the band is going to provide more support than the straps, and over tightening them can cause serious discomfort and even nerve pain in the long run. For some, a racerback style is more comfortable as it can relieve some of the pressure on the shoulders by distributing the weight of the breasts more broadly across the back. You might also want to consider a longline bra, which has extra material and boning beneath the cups, thus offering extra support for your breasts from underneath (and taking some of the pressure off your shoulders and upper back).


Keep a lookout for any fit red flags that your bra isn’t the right size. For example, if the underband doesn’t lie at an even level all the way around your torso, or if your straps are causing indentations in your shoulders, you’ll know your poorly-fitting bra could be the cause of any back or shoulder pain you’re experiencing. And don’t forget: Bras should be tossed after a year or so — they lose their elasticity with wearing and washing, and eventually won’t be able to offer adequate support, which then puts you at risk for pain in your upper back and shoulders.

Related: How To Tell If A Bra Fits In 4 Easy Steps

We Highly Recommend

Whether you’re shopping for new everyday bras or lingerie for a special occasion, it’s always a good idea to seek out a second opinion. We know how hard it is to find bras that fit well and feel good, especially when you’re doing it on your own. If you’ve ever felt unsure about your bra size or you just don’t know where to go to find good bras, it’s time to let a bra fitter help.

Many specialty lingerie boutiques offer bra fittings. Their expert bra fitters will take the pain and frustration out of bra shopping and do all the work for you. Even better, their product knowledge can save you time and money. Plus, they know where all of the best bras are hiding.

If you’ve struggled with finding bras in the right size, it’s time to make a change. Visit our specialty store locator to find a store near you and schedule an appointment.

Happy bra shopping!

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Rebecca Strong

Rebecca is a Boston-based freelance writer who focuses on style, fitness, food, and travel. She has contributed to such publications as HuffPost, Elite Daily and U.S. News & World Report. When she's not writing, she can be found at home or in the studio working on the songs for her upcoming album. Her favorite bra is a black demi-cup style with all-over-lace — timeless and feminine.

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