The right bra should make you feel confident and comfortable, rather than be a pain in the neck—or shoulders. Shoulder pain from a bra or bra straps cutting into shoulders is more than a simple nuisance. Pain can lead to health problems down the road, including headaches, skin indentations, sagging breasts, headaches, or even nerve damage.
Fortunately, there are solutions to stop pain before it starts. Here’s what to do if you’re experiencing discomfort from your bra digging into shoulders.
1. Adjust the straps
Don’t ditch the bra just yet. First, experiment with the length of its straps. A common misconception is that breasts are supported by bra straps, when in actuality it’s the band that provides the majority of support. Bra straps shouldn’t be worn tightly enough to lift breasts upward. Loosen straps to determine whether they are too short, causing digging into the shoulders, or pinching underneath the breasts to lift them. Simply loosening the straps may solve the problem.
2. Check the band
If straps are still digging into shoulders and causing discomfort after loosening them, it might mean the band of the bra isn’t snug enough. Over time, bras stretch in band size and aren’t able to offer as much support. This creates added work for the straps, and tightening them to compensate for that lack of support causes digging into the shoulders. If the band is riding up in back, it indicates the straps have taken on the band’s work. Even when worn and cared for correctly, bras typically need to be replaced every six to eight months.
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3. Get a professional fitting
When it’s time to purchase a new bra, head to an expert fitting. Wearing the incorrect size or the wrong type of bra leads to discomfort, pain, and poor posture. A professional will provide the correct measurements of band and cup size, as well as help you determine the proper support and style for your breasts’ unique shape. For example, full-busted women benefit from bras with wide or padded straps, which distribute weight effectively and comfortably. Knowing your "sister size" is also important, as sizing may vary from brand to brand. Sister sizes are groups of bra size equivalents based on ratios and are especially helpful if you find your bra's cup or band fitting improperly. Typically, this translates to going up a cup size when going down a band size.
4. Find the right bra
Now that you’ve got the correct fit, wearing a variety of bra styles is essential for comfort at any occasion. Seamless or t-shirt bras offer invisible coverage beneath camis, tanks, and tees. Underwire bras provide extra support. Push-up styles are great for added lift. Convertible or strapless bras are perfect for wearing with off-the-shoulder tops or dresses or racer-back tops. Demi bras are cut low to work under lower or scoop necklines. Balconette bras offer full coverage while showcasing the top of the breast. Bralettes are a comfortable option for loungewear. Sports bras provide support and moisture-wicking during workouts.
After you figure out the correct cup and band for your shape, consider stocking your bra “wardrobe” to suit your lifestyle. Once you have a good support system, you'll never look back!
Crystal is a certified yoga instructor and freelance writer, covering wellness, health, lifestyle, beauty and fitness.