As a physiotherapist I am always assessing and considering the biomechanics and anatomy of various body parts and their relevance to pain and stiffness. I recently attended an interesting and informative lecture run by the Australian Physiotherapy Association on breasts, bras and biomechanics. Breasts have been linked to upper back, neck pain or headaches and should be taken into consideration like any other body parts! Breast hypertrophy has been associated with chronic headaches and musculoskeletal pain is one of the leading reasons women seek reduction mammoplasty. Furthermore, 17% of women reported breast pain as a barrier to exercise participation, the 4th highest reason. If you have ever experienced exercise induced breast pain you certainly are not alone.
Advances in motion technology have allowed us to study breast movement during various forms of exercise and use this information to improve sports bra technology. The breast displaces in three dimensions and varies with breast size and intensity or type of exercise. Biomechanical studies have concluded that breasts should move in a butterfly pattern to reduce strain on supporting structures and technical sports bras have been developed in line with this. Reduced breast support has also been shown to have an adverse effect on gait or walking pattern. The effects can include reduced arm swing, altered stride length and foot strike pattern, and increased use of chest muscles to improve support for breast tissue. These things in combination can lead to further musculoskeletal issues. Technical sports bras need to be seen as an essential part of exercise equipment.
A technical sports bra can only be defined as such if it has undergone biomechanical testing and is based on current evidence. Technical fabrics may include moisture wicking and heat dissipation properties. Unfortunately, many advertised sports bras are not a technical product and are not readily available on the retail market. She Science in Kew is one of the only stores in Australia stocking technical sports bras who can assist you with specialised fittings using motion technology. They provide a number of brands and options for breastfeeding mums, post mastectomy populations and active women of all shapes and sizes.
So ladies, if you think lack of breast support may be contributing to your musculoskeletal issues or preventing you from participating in exercise, speak to your physiotherapist and consider having a specialised sports bra fitting today!