I feel like talking about “Posture” is a bit prim and old-fashioned, like “Let’s all go to finishing school and work on our hope chests and wait for gentlemen callers,” you know? Plus we’re all bent over computers and smartphones and co-sleeping with our laptops anyway, so why fight the inevitable? Well, for a couple of reasons.
One of the reasons is that bad posture can cause back pain. And another reason is that bad posture can be an unconscious coping mechanism for dealing with an ill-fitting bra.
JUST TO BE CLEAR: the weight of larger breasts can cause back pain and headaches even with good posture and the right bra, and for many women reduction surgery feels like a new lease on life and brings enormous whole-body health benefits. So if you know your bra is the right style and fit for you, and you practice good posture conscientiously, and you’re still in pain and you’re thinking about surgery, you should do what you decide is best for you. There are many very personal reasons a woman might seek out surgery, and it is and should be entirely up to her.
That being said, it’s kind of a “duh” that bad posture causes back strain, neck pain, and even headaches. Our bodies’ component parts are all miraculously interconnected, and if one thing’s off (like, oh, spinal alignment) it can throw the whole thing out of whack. In addition, wearing the wrong bra size can actually encourage bad posture. When I wore the wrong bra size (band way too big and cup way too small), the acts of raising my arms and rolling my shoulders back or arching my back to stretch caused a chain reaction: the band would ride up in the back, my chest and breasts would lift, and breast tissue would push out over the top of the cup (double boob) or migrate out under the underwire as it lifted up off my chest wall. However, if I kept my shoulders angled forward and allowed my upper spine to collapse, problem solved! The chain reaction couldn’t get started as often, and I had to fidget with my bra/shirt buttons less often. I also hurt like hell.
Not only will a well-fitted bra help ease back pain by supporting the weight of your breasts from the band rather than the straps (and thus relieve strain on your neck and shoulders), it will allow you to stand and sit up straighter without risking double-boob or under-boob.
Here’s a good way to check your posture without slamming your shoulders back and puffing up your chest. Keeping your shoulders down (don’t let them rise up towards your ears), raise your arms straight in front of you, palms facing the floor, until your arms are shoulder-height and parallel to the floor. Keeping your palms facing down, slowly carry your arms out to the sides, keeping them parallel to the floor. Check here to make sure your shoulders haven’t lifted or your neck tensed up, and then gently rotate your wrists so that your palms now face the ceiling. Keeping your palms rotated up and shoulders down (this is kind of a tricky part), slowly lower your arms to your sides. Now, keeping your shoulders, arms, and back in the newly opened position they’ve achieved, relax your wrists and let your palms rotate to face your body.
Congratulations, now you have good posture! Stand here for a minute and just breathe, without stiffening or clenching any of these newly released muscles (or your jaw). Whenever I do this (and yes, I sometimes do it at my desk and get caught), it feels like my chest cavity expands, my upper back un-pinches, and my breathing grows fuller and deeper. If at any point during this exercise your bra band rides up in the back, your underwires lift away from your chest wall, or the cups of your bra cut into your breast tissue, it may be time to get refitted.