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Debunking Bra Myths: Breast Weight on the Shoulders

In several of the recent blog posts, we’ve been looking at persistent bra myths championed by proponents of anti-bra movements. Another popular bra myth and study that was mis-cited is a study wherein women were asked to stop wearing a bra for two weeks, and the women found that it reduced shoulder and muscle pain. This is used as an argument to stop wearing a bra. While this study was actually conducted in the manner implied by the anti-bra articles, the conclusion isn’t what the anti-bra commentators would have you think. What’s the truth behind this misleading anti-bra myth?

The Truth about the Study

This study was conducted over a five-year period by doctors who wanted to look at the link between the weight of the bust being carried at the shoulder through “brassiere straps” and pain in the¬†pectoral girdle muscles. These muscles are on the front of the chest and on the side of the chest under the arm. The physicians involved in the study recorded the weight of the breasts and the sites of the pain and tenderness, as tenderness in some similar muscle groups are related to a different problem.

The doctors then asked patients to remove the weight of the bra straps from their shoulders for a period of two weeks. Most women chose to not wear a bra at all, while one woman chose to wear a strapless bra to remove the weight of the bra straps from the shoulders.

The study was inconclusive. At the conclusion of the study, some women presented with an absence of pain and tenderness, while other women still presented with pain and tenderness in these regions. The reason that many anti-bra proponents cite this study is because “79% of the patients decided to remove breast weight from the shoulder permanently because it rendered them symptom free.”

Many anti-bra proponents erroneously assume that this means that the women stopped wearing bras entirely, and that the study supports the anti-bra position that bras cause women to experience shoulder pain. Neither of these facts is true.

False Assumptions from the Study

The study only stated that many of the patients (4 out of 5) decided to remove breast weight from the shoulder permanently. This can be achieved through several methods. Some women chose to wear strapless bras to remove the weight of the straps digging into the shoulders. But we’ve also discussed on many occasions that a poorly-fitted bra transfers the weight of the breasts to the shoulders. Removing the breast weight from the shoulders could be accomplished merely by wearing a bra that fits properly.

In well-fitted bras, the weight of your breasts is supported by the body of the bra itself, much in the manner that a strapless bra works. The straps just help keep the cups in place, and provide a little extra support with certain movements.

However, most women wear bras that don’t fit properly, with a band size too large and a cup size too small. If you’re wearing a bra that has this problem, the weight of the breasts is going to be supported by the straps, not the band. If your bra fits like this, you need to get a smaller band size and a larger cup size. By doing this, you put the weight of your breasts back into the body of the bra, and remove it from your shoulders.

So yes, poorly fitted bras can cause shoulder pain. But you don’t have to stop wearing a bra entirely to prevent shoulder and pectoral pain. Just wear a properly-fitted bra that doesn’t rely on the shoulder straps to carry the weight of your bust.

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