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Large Breasts and Female Athletes

Posted by Dr Beverley Marr on

PurePosture posture female athletes breast spine alignment

The other day I was at a gym doing a presentation for PurePosture, and I spent some time watching people work out.

Most notable were two young women using a treadmill at either end of a bank of treadmills. Both women were wearing what had to be Victoria Secret demi bras (ok guys you know what I'm talking about). Think Bo Derek running on the beach in "10"...I'm dating myself here.

The women had large breasts, there was a lot of bouncing going on. Some guys, in the free weight area, were furtively glancing at these women. These guys looked like they were watching Roger Federer at the Australian open. Looking to the right, then to the left, back and forth. 

Possibly the women were unaware of the attention, or maybe they were, but one thing I thought was: This can not possibly be good for their breast tissue or their upper backs.  

PurePosture posture female athletes breast spine alignment

The number one complaint large breasted women have is upper back and shoulder pain. 

Female athletes face a real problem if they are large breasted. They must be comfortable and flexible. Unfortunately, the added weight of large breasts to their anterior torso can overwork their back muscles resulting in fatigue to the muscles and less control over an action. 

My good friend, a very accomplished equestrian, had such a problem. She had a difficult time finding bras to hold her breast firmly against her chest while allowing her to breathe! Bouncing boobs at horse competitions are both a distraction but also cause strain to the upper back and shoulders.

She eventually found wearing two bras, the first one positioning the breasts, the "over" bra complete with a zip-up-the-front, to ensure absolutely no breast movement. 

This worked well most of the time, but when training or competing during the summer heat, wearing layers of clothing, was not great. She complained of being so warm she was sometimes disoriented and soaked with perspiration. Difficult to be cool, collected and focused. 

What's so wrong with bouncing boobs?

Let's start with a brief anatomy lesson:

Breasts are composed mostly of fat with a significant amount of glandular tissue. Breasts are held together with fibrous soft tissue called Cooper's Ligaments. They are anchored to the chest wall, on top of the pectoralis (pecs) muscle. 

PurePosture posture female athletes breast spine alignment

Breasts are vulnerable to abrupt and aggressive motion as required in racquet sports, basketball, lacrosse, downhill skiing, ballroom dancing, equestrian sports. This rapid motion can cause the tissue to tear. Not only painful, tears in this area are slow to heal. 

Women with large breasts tend to bring their arms close to their sides, round their shoulders and hunch the upper back.

Many large breasted women complain of dull, deep and mostly constant pain in their mid-back where the bra hooks in the back. Because of this structural imbalance, the neck is often extended in front of the body instead of directly over the body causing neck strain and sometimes headaches. It's all connected.

Thin bra straps can cause indentations to the top of the shoulders due to the weight of the breast.  Over years, these indentations can become permanent and leave the shoulders vulnerable to tears and shoulder dysfunction.

What's a girl to do?

PurePosture posture female athletes breast spine alignment

If you are a large breasted woman or an athlete, you need support!

Running in a flimsy bra is like running in flip-flops. You need to stop the bounce and decrease stress on the breasts and upper back.

Thankfully today we have many great sports bras to choose from.

I am not a big fan of "racer back" type because they put too much pressure on your trapezius (the traps) and can force your head forward. Instead, I prefer a wide strap "traditional" type styling with a wide back (three or more hooks) and one with cups to cover the entire breast including the area just under the arms in the front. 

PurePosture posture female athletes breast spine alignment

Fortunately, there are many bras to choose from today specifically suited for the female athlete. You want one that has breathable material to wick off moisture, firmly hold the breast close to the chest. Some are available with or without an underwire. You can find them at the better "running" stores. Take the time to try on several different models.

Choosing the correct bra is one step I advise my female athlete patients and all those with large breasts. Almost all complain of upper back and neck pain. What I find on examination is weak latissimus dorsi (lats) and lower trapezius (traps) muscles, resulting in a forward head carriage, rounded shoulders, and hunched upper back.  

My treatment: fix the frame first then build muscle on the corrected frame and buy the correct bra to fit the activity.  

Almost everyone needs help in aligning their spine, especially large breasted women. To help fix your frame, why not try PurePosture, an amazing tool designed for spinal alignment, increasing spinal flexibility and improving posture. It really works!!  Invest in PurePosture today.


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