A news report in the MMD Newswire echoed a prevalent but luckily, false belief, that breasts cause back pain. The good news is that means you do not have to be forced into back pain, and there are things that you can try quickly to relieve it yourself.
Many of my patients who come to me with upper back pain say that their doctor or other health care practitioner told them the reason is the weight of their breasts. I show them how they can stop the pain by checking and correcting other factors that are the real underlying cause.
One of the biggest mistakes in science is confusing correlation for cause and effect. There are so many people with back pain that it is easy to blame anything happening at the same time, like having breasts or a big belly in front, or carrying backpacks in back, or groceries on the side.
- Men have the same or higher incidence of the same upper back pain.
- Women who are smaller, or have had breast reduction and double mastectomies can have the same pain.
- If straps are binding or cutting into your neck, that can obviously be uncomfortable, so check and fix that.
- However, the specific cause is not the breasts, since men and smaller women can get the same kind of pain.
- If you round your shoulders, spend time with the upper body bent or rounded forward, or have a forward head, the shifted weight is a common contributor to upper back pain.
Look at the photo, above left. Letting your neck tilt so that your ear is forward of your shoulder, as in the photo, is called a forward head. It is not the normal tilt to the neck. It is a weak and injurious bad posture. The angle of the jaw should rest comfortably above the center-shoulder. The forward head is the source of a surprisingly large percentage of upper back and neck pain. The classic distribution of this pain is across both shoulders, up the neck, down the upper back, sometimes causing numbness or tingling down the arm. Do you have a forward head? Here is a quick test:
- Stand comfortably with your back against a wall or doorway.
- Touch your heels, your behind, and your upper back against the wall.
- Does the back of your head touch easily?
- If your head is forward of the wall, it is likely that you have a forward head.
- See if you have to crane your neck to bring your head back to the wall.
- See if you round your shoulders
- Check if you lean back to try to straighten up. Straightening should come from the upper body, not by increasing the inward curve of the lower back (hyperlordosis), which can hurt - Fixing the Commonest Source of Mystery Lower Back Pain.
If you have to force or crane your neck back to touch the back of your head to the wall, or you lean backward to try to straighten, you are too tight to be straight. That means you may walk around all day, and exercise, and sit, and do all you do with bent forward positioning, which can cause pain.
Often, people who think they "stand up straight" find that they are straining their beck and shoulder back, which causes upper body pain. The problem is that they are too tight to stand with healthful position. Strained straightening and the many postures that are mistaken for straight but are not will hurt as much as slouching.
If you did the wall test, see if you are slouching forward from the forward head, or from the upper body, or both. See if you have to lean backward to straighten up. See if it is an effort to stand roughly straight, instead of normal comfortable muscle length. Those are more causes of pain, mistaken for the size of the chest. In posts to come I show two quick techniques to lengthen the front chest muscles to let you stand straight easily and comfortably. Then you will not have a forward head or rounded shoulders:
- Here is the first thing to try to restore resting muscle length to make standing straight possible and comfortable:Fixing Upper Back and Neck Pain.
- Here is the second - Nice Neck Stretch
- Try those two gently, with the aim of restoring ability to straighten out comfortably, then use the straighter position, so bent forward position does not hang on your upper back muscles, making them hurt. The stretch does not fix the pain - using them to be able to straighten out during the rest of the day is the key.
- To help unround a rounded tight upper back, gently experiment with Fast Fitness - First Morning Stretch andQuick, Feel-Good Upper Back and Chest Stretch
- Check if you spend much time rounding or bent forward - Are You Making Your Exercise Unhealthy?
- Check to see if you lean back instead of straightening - Neutral Spine or Not?
The idea is, that no matter your size, use your own muscles to prevent uncomfortable positioning. By restoring healthier upper body positioning and use, you will get built-in back muscle exercise all day. Standing straight instead of allowing your upper spine to compress under your weight will stop your pain plus give free calorie burning exercise.
If you find that lifting your chest with your hands takes the strain away, then you can do the same with your upper body muscles. It is free exercise to use your muscles to prevent your own body weight from squashing you. Pull your chin inward and shoulders back in a relaxed way by unrounding the upper back. Then weight of your head and upper body will not pull forward on your upper back muscles, making them ache.
The same applies to carrying a grocery bag, a child, or any load. Don't slouch under the load, use muscles to keep healthy comfortable position.
Fitness Fixer reader Ness left a comment on the post Fixing Upper Back and Neck Pain:
"I am very large breasted and have always been. It's a very difficult thing to find a comfortable bra. For the past few months, I've been having upper back pain. I felt like I needed to "crack." Every night I complain, and nothing works!
"Except this. haha, you have NO IDEA how pleased I am that this "fixing upper back and neck pain" stretch works.
"Now, I'm not going to pretend that I think I'm perfect now because I've been sitting straight for about 10 mins and it is starting to get a little tiring.
"But, I don't feel ANY pain.
"Was that it?? Really my DDDs have nothing to do with it???"
See the wall test - How Doctors Use The Wall Stand.
No exercise is more important for your joint health than holding up your own body weight, no matter what or where it may be. Your size does not force you to slouch. It does not require long or repeated treatments or sessions or teams of professionals.