Most of us rely daily on our bra for undercover shape and support. But did you know that wearing the wrong size can be detrimental to your health? Aside from the obvious back pain or chafing from broken underwire, ill-fitting underwear can also be the cause of headaches, neck strain and poor posture.
We spoke to Triumph Professional Fitter, Paula Svoboda, about the impact of wearing the wrong-sized bra on your health, and how you can make sure you’re getting the right fit for your girls.
Size really does matter!
A 2008 clinical study by Triumph, published in the Journal of Chiropractic & Osteopathy found that 80 per cent of women were wearing bras of the wrong size. Of the women surveyed, 70 per cent were wearing a size too small, and 1 in 10 women wore a bra too large for their bust. These are huge numbers, so why are most women in the dark about their true size? “The vast majority of women have never actually experienced a professional fitting,” says Paula, “They are going by what they think feels like the right size, without being properly educated about what the perfect fit actually feels, or looks like.”
Shopping for a bra is not just about doing the hooks up at the back, there are plenty of things to consider when finding the right size. You should be considering where the underwire is placed, how the band fits across your back, the coverage area of your breast, as well as the fit of the hooks and straps.
Does support differ according to size?
We’ve all heard the jokes about gravity not being kind to those with bigger breasts, but irreversible sagging can affect women with small busts, too. “Women believe that sag is often due to the size of your breasts, but this is not the case,” says Paula. “The stress of movement on the breast is what causes the fatty tissue and ligaments to stretch and sag over time, irrespective of your size, and it doesn’t go back. It is equally as important to wear a correctly supportive bra if you're an A-cup as if you are a double-D.”
Your breast is primarily made of glandular tissue, fat, and thin, fibrous strands known as Cooper’s ligaments. Along with the skin, these are believed to provide only minimal natural support to the breast, which is why women of all shapes and sizes need extra support to counteract the dreaded sag.
What this means for your health
When a bra is too loose, you’ll find yourself subconsciously sitting and walking with your back hunched forward slightly, to stop the straps from falling off your shoulders. “To avoid this, invest in a properly-fitted bra which will allow you to move around with better posture,” advises Paula. “One D-cup sized breast weights 500g, so imagine the strain your back endures if you carry around 1kg on your chest incorrectly all day!”
Headaches, neck strain and back pain can also be the result of an ill-fitting bra. “More often than not they are caused by looser-fitting bras,” says Paula, “If you are wearing the wrong size, the weight of the breast causes stress on the shoulder, which leads up the neck, which can subsequently cause headaches."
If you are experiencing chronic and repetitive back and neck strain, it might not be the fault or your pillow or the way you sleep. It could be the bra you’re wearing all day, every day. Paula says, "Some women wear their bra straps closer to their neck, rather than centred on their shoulder. Again, this contributes to tension and tightness. It's all about wearing the right size so the weight is distributed evenly."
Finding the right fit
Paula says there are seven key steps for finding a correctly-fitted bra:
- Sitting pretty: “The underwire should go around the entire contour of the breast and the front of the bra should sit flat against your chest,” says Paula. “If you feel the wires are digging in or resting on breast tissue, it’s a big sign you are in the wrong size!”
- Super support: If you have a larger bust, finding a supportive bra is key for comfort. “Go for styles with thicker straps and a wider band with more hooks. Three or more band hooks will help to keep your bust in line, and the thicker straps will provide increased leverage,” advises Paula.
- Strapping in: Your bra straps should feel firm on your body – but not dig in – and also shouldn't be too loose, where they’re sliding down your shoulders.
- Good coverage: “Take note of how the bra fits at the side and on the top of the breast. The fabric should be firm over the bust,” says Paula. “If your breasts are not filling the cup or there’s excess flesh spilling over the top and sides of the bra, you are wearing the wrong cup size.”
- Try before you buy: Paula says, “Always remember that no two bras offer exactly the same level of support or will fit the same way - even if they have the same size on the tag.” Sizes change between brands and can even differ depending on the individual style, so always try on your bras before buying them.
- If in doubt, sing out. There’s a lot to consider when buying the right bra. If you are unsure about fit, don’t hesitate to ask for a professional fitting.