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London - Health experts are warning about the the serious health problems that can be triggered by wearing an ill-fitting bra.
They say seemingly unrelated conditions including skin rashes, tendonitis and even indigestion can be caused by poorly fitting undergarments, especially if you have large breasts.
It is thought that four in five women wear an ill-fitting bra because they tend to underestimate the width of their back, while overestimating their cup size.
Lorna Mills, a chiropractor, said: “Women come into my clinic on a regular basis showing rounded shoulders, curves in the back, indigestion due to the diaphragm and lungs being restricted, marks from straps and underwires, dents in the shoulders: all the signs of an ill-fitting bra.”
She says one of the biggest problems is that women are regularly fitted with bras that are far too big in the cup.
“This then means the straps are too big so they are continually tightened, which then pulls the shoulders and neck down, curving the spine and creating tension and discomfort.
“The underwire can creep up because of straps that are too tight and pressure builds around the stomach and lower oesophagus. Tissues end up being pushed and pulled in unnatural directions.”
One woman who has suffered the effects of an ill-fitting bra is Shirley Brailey, a 62-year-old retired teacher.
She said her hiatus hernia, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and indigestion were caused by wearing an ineffective underwired bra.
“For years. I have suffered from a range of complaints which, after speaking to specialists, I now realise are largely a consequence of wearing bras that never properly supported me.
“I have suffered from hiatus hernia, heartburn, IBS and indigestion that I can pinpoint as starting when I first started wearing underwired bras.
“I have indents from the straps that have even affected how my clavicle bone ‘sticks up’.”
Shirley was also told her back had been flattened by her bra because the muscles down the front of her body and legs had shortened as her chest pulled her forward.
Shirley, who practised pilates and t’ai chi in a bid to remedy her problems, also suffered from tension headaches and neck pain, tendonitis in her shoulders and elbows and pins and needles.
Richard Moore, an osteopath and sports massage therapist, said: “On many occasions I have been able to link women’s back and neck complaints directly to badly-fitted bras that not only offer limited or no support but create visible problems in posture, resulting in pain and tension.
“Traditional bras are often too tight around the ribs, creating a pivot point in the middle of the back, dividing it into two smaller areas that can’t work as effectively.
“The lack of support at the front can also bring the upper back forward and to compensate for this, many women end up tilting their heads backwards.
“All these slight but continuous maladjustments put unnecessary pressure on the diaphragm, which if you are sitting at a desk for hours each day, affect the breathing mechanism and can also be a direct link to digestion problems and IBS.
“Overly tight straps not only cause skin irritations but reduce blood flow, affecting the nerves and contribute to tension headaches.”
Shirley’s problems have now disappeared after she was properly fitted with a new bra called Optibra. She said it has even helped her breathe more easily.
Designed in the UK by NHS bra fitter Sue McDonald and consultant plastic surgeon Atul Khanna, the bra is fitted “three-dimensionally”.
Conventional bra fittings involve two measurements: one around the ribcage under the bust, and another around the fullest part of the breasts.
But Optibra is based on three measurements taken with a patented elastic strap using colour, letter and number combinations to define frame, depth and volume.
Product developer Khanna said that a well-fitted bra could negate the need for breast-reduction surgery: “Many women present to surgeons with back and shoulder pain, even sores or welts from straps and underwires digging into their skin.
“They blame the size of their breasts and wish for a surgical reduction. But in almost all of the cases I see, the problems stem from not having the right support which has, over time, led to very negative posture that is creating huge discomfort.”
Chiropractor Lorna said that she had recommended the new bra to some of her patients too.
“One of my patients is in her seventies suffers from arthritis and we have been working on the curvature in her spine.
“After discovering Optifit, I recommended she get measured and fitted and even I was astonished at the difference.
“By simply changing her bra, her spine straightened by a quarter of an inch, which may not sound like a lot, but in anatomical terms it is very impressive.
“By wearing something that does the right job, the posture improves because the muscles are working in a different yet correct way and it enables and encourages you to stand properly.” – Daily Mail
HOW TO PICK a PERFECT BRA
Should not dig in but fit comfortably next to the body with no bulging on either side.
The back band should not ride up at the back. You should be able to get two fingers underneath at the back and one at the front middle.
Breasts should fit neatly into cups – breasts should not overspill or leave a gap between it and cup
Bras with underwires are not suitable for growing breasts, such as when pregnant. But if you have large breasts and have evened out, then you may find them more comfortable.
Wires should never dig in or stick out. They should nestle under your breastbone and sit comfortably next to your ribcage. If they push against the ribcage, you may need a larger size.
If breasts bulge out from underneath the wires then it’s possible you need a smaller back size with larger cup size.