You may have experienced the red dents and skin irritation from bra straps at the end of a long day and the relief that comes with taking the uncomfortable bra off for the night. While redness, indentations and discomfort are common problems, they can be avoided. Deep indentations and redness is a sign of a poorly fitting bra. If your shoulder straps are bearing the weight of your breasts, its a sign that the bra doesn't fit your body and isn't doing its job.
Your Health and Well Being
While you may think of your bra as a functional undergarment or a piece of lingerie, it is an important part of your overall health and well-being, particularly if you are large-busted. Ill-fitting bras, such as the ones that leave deep dents in your shoulders, can impact your posture, cause back and shoulder pain and contribute to headaches. When your bra is transferring the weight of your breasts to your shoulders, your neck bears a great deal of stress. Some women may even experience numbness and other symptoms as a result of shoulder stress. A well-fitting bra will not only prevent sore shoulders, but may improve your overall health, giving you a more upright stance and helping you to feel better.
Assess the Fit
In most cases, sore shoulders are a result of a bra that is not the right size. Most of the work of supporting the breasts should be done by the bra band, not the straps. You ought to be able to drop your bra straps without your breasts falling with them. A too-loose bra band and too-small cups will create red, sore shoulders, cause poor posture and may even leave your breasts looking droopy. The band of your bra needs to be quite snug to your ribs and parallel to the floor. The underwires should fit snugly under and around your breasts, sitting flat against the chest between the breasts. Any gaping or overflow is a sign of a poor fit, either in the band or the cup.
Adjust the Straps
While redness and sore shoulders are usually a sign of a bra that is the wrong size, these symptoms can also be the result of too-tight shoulder straps. If your breasts sit rather low on your rib cage, you may need to loosen your shoulder straps somewhat to allow more space between the top of the shoulder and the band of your bra. Adjust the straps using the slide adjuster, or -- if that is not adequate -- purchase new straps at a fabric shop or lingerie retailer. The straps on many bras may be easily swapped. For others, new straps may be added with a few stitches.
If after looking at your bra you've realized that the problem isn't as simple as a too-short strap, a good bra fitting is essential. A professional fitting in a good lingerie shop or department store is ideal. Choose a shop that carries a very wide size range for the best fitting. For a self-fitting, measure snugly under your bust and rather loosely around your full bust. Add an inch if needed to round your underbust measurement to an even number and subtract the underbust from the full bust. Allow 1 inch per cup size. For example, a 32-inch underbust and a 36-inch full bust gives you a starting size of 32D. When trying on bras, use the fitting guidelines you used to assess your bra to determine fit. A well-fitting bra should support your breasts without putting their weight on your shoulders and neck.
If you're large-busted, some amount of shoulder discomfort may occur even with a well-fitting bra. Wider straps or those with a small amount of padding can improve your overall comfort level in these cases. Bras designed with comfort in mind may help, but you can also find pretty bras designed with wider, padded straps to ease shoulder discomfort.
With a master's degree in art history from the University of Missouri-Columbia, Michelle Powell-Smith has been writing professionally for more than a decade. An avid knitter and mother of four, she has written extensively on a wide variety of subjects, including education, test preparation, parenting, crafts and fashion.