Your bra could kill you

The vast majority of women between the ages of say, 12 and 75, wear bras every day. Over the last century it has become a staple in female underwear in the western world, and they are definitely here to stay.

Janet Muller is founder and owner of Pandora Bra Studio - an expert bra fitting studio in Parkmore, Johannesburg, which has been providing expert bra fitting services as well as a range of premium top quality bras to women of all shapes and sizes for over 20 years. Muller says that they are often surprised in the studio at how many women didn’t realise the damaging effects a bad bra can have on your body.

We already know that the fit of your bra can have a remarkable impact on your comfort levels, the way your body looks, how clothes fit, and how you feel generally.  What many women aren’t as aware of is that an ill-fitting bra is more than just uncomfortable and strange-looking; there are actually some pretty serious health consequences of wearing ill-fitting bras.

Bad bra health risks

•    Strain and pain
“Some of the most prominent problems we see in the studio include serious back-pain, headaches and shoulder strain. We also often see large breasted women who have developed extremely painful welts and damage to their shoulders from wearing bras with straps that are too thin,” says Muller.

•    Rashes
“Rashes are a big problem as well,” Muller notes. “If your bra is not properly separating your breasts, many women get fungal rashes in between and underneath their breasts. This is due to the warm and moist environment that occurs when breasts are squished against each other and aren’t properly lifted off of your ribs. Some women try to combat this by using deodorants and powders in those areas, but more often than not these rashes - and sometimes even unsightly skin tags as well - recur as a result of badly supported breasts.”

•    Decreased flow of lymphatic fluids
Dr Hans-Ulrich Krüger, who is a senior consultant for the Department of Internal medicine and Oncology at the Rehabilitation Centre of Bavaria Clinic (Freyung says the health effects of badly fitting bras over a long period of time can be serious. Included Dr Krüger’s examples, is the fact that too thin and tight straps can impede the flow of lymphatic fluids, which adversely affects the immune system. This has become a focal point of discussion in the US and Europe as it possibly be linked to an increased likelihood of developing breast cancer.

•    Rheumatism and inflammation and arthritis
 Dr Krüger also explains that too tight bras can affect many areas on the body which are key orthopaedic trigger points, and can aggravate cases of rheumatism. He also describes how pressure on the collar bone and trapezius muscle by tight and narrow bra straps can result in inflammation of the bursa, tendon irritation and defective positions of the cervical spine. The consequences of this strain over many years could include the development of worn joints and arthritis.

•    Overheating
Dr Krüger goes on to relate that the types of materials and fibres used are important as harmful toxins and chemicals from badly made fabrics are absorbed into the body very easily via the nipple area. These materials can also cause chronic overheating of breasts, which has a negative effect on melatonin metabolism. He also advises that, in order to prevent these serious side effects, women should ensure that they are expertly fitted. He suggests that women choose bras on which the straps and under-bust are sufficiently wide, soft and elastic, as well as match your shape anatomically. He also advises women choose bras made from good quality, hi-tech or natural fabrics which are permeable to air and heat.

How do I prevent this?

•    Ask the experts
In order to rectify these issues, the first and most important step is to go and get an expert fitting. “Being a specialist bra fitter is not as easy as following a set of instructions. We are trained on how to measure a woman correctly and how to recognise a good fit. We are also trained on what the different styles’ effect will have, and adjust the style according to what it does for the figure.  We have been taught how to spot any problems and make the necessary adjustments to solve them,” Muller explains.

•    Size and style
“The right bra isn’t just about size, it’s also very much about the style as this can have a prominent effect on the shape, fit, look and feel of a bra” continues Muller. “When women try clothes on with the right bra there really is a wow-moment. Many of the women we see are not previously made aware of how many styles are available (we carry over 40 in the studio) as many of these styles aren’t available in the retail environment.
“Many of our flagship styles have been available consistently over the years, and we work with suppliers who have been producing the required styles for years on end, which eliminates the issue of finding the perfect shape and style of bra, and then having the line discontinued. We are able to stock the kind of variety of bra styles which means that there is a solution for every type of body. Expert bras today are actually really impressive feats of engineering, and can be made from as many as 25 components.”

•    Put it on properly
When trying on a bra, Muller advises that extra care be taken, as it is not just about the size and shape of the bra, it is also important that it is put on correctly. “When you put you bra on, lean forward and scoop your breasts up into the cup. The base of the bra should fit snugly flush against your ribs and there should be no spillage of the bust coming out underneath. Then stand up straight and lift up your arms, and check again that there is no spillage, and that the entire breast fits into the cup.”

So, even though the health consequences of a badly fitting bra isn’t something that should keep you up at night, don’t ever underestimate the importance of a good bra.

Invest in a quality bra which has been expertly fitted, and take the best possible care of your body and breasts. More than just about looks and comfort, a well-fitted bra can provide many other forms of physical relief and you could end up avoiding some potentially harmful side-effects.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Show Comments ()
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.