With many of us now in the full swing of working from our kitchen tables and sofas, there’s been much talk (and countless memes) about the new lack of requirement to put on a bra. As we work from home, it’s an impressive feat if we manage to get changed out of our pyjamas, let alone pop on a boulder-holder in the mornings. Apart from during the occasional video conference call and Zoom session with our friends, we’re half tempted to whip off our tops and #freethenipple entirely, especially as our backs are hurting from being hunched over our laptops, Monday to Friday.
We don’t know about you, but thinking about whether or not to wear lacy underwear right now is pretty low on the list. And, as the weather gets hotter, we really can’t be bothered with boob sweat and chaffing.
That’s why we consulted a range of experts to find out the pros and cons of wearing a bra, and to ask whether the next few months really are the perfect time to give our breasts some respite.
The Back Expert
Ask yourself: When was the last time you went for a bra fitting? Well, you might want to consider booking an appointment when social-distancing is over, as studies estimate that more than 80 per cent of women are wearing the wrong bra size. To make matters worse, 70 per cent of us are wearing bras that are too small, while 10 per cent are wearing bras that are too big.
In addition, according to The Institute of Osteopathy there’s evidence that larger breast/cup sizes can be a contributing factor to changes in your posture, which in turn may lead to musculoskeletal pain.
As a result, we spoke to Robin Lansman, osteopath and media spokesperson for the Institute of Osteopathy to find out whether bras help or hinder our boobs:
Is it a myth than poorly fitting bras cause back pain?
It depends on which type of bra you wear (an everyday bra, a sports bra etc) and a woman’s build. There’s also a myriad of factors that can contribute to a woman’s back pain. For example, some women are less comfortable with their shape so may slump or arch their shoulders, which will have a big effect on how the back muscles affect their posture. When it comes to women’s musculoskeletal pain and breasts, it’s not just as a result of their size and bra.
Should we be wearing sport’s bras all the time instead of pretty bras?
Not necessarily. Sports bras can often provide too much support and prevent the ribcage from functioning properly, therefore weakening back muscles and overstraining the breast ligaments. However, if you do regular exercise it’s important to have some support otherwise your risk damaging the internal structure of the breast. When you don’t wear a bra during a workout, your back, neck muscles, and trapezius (a major muscle in the back) are also going to have to work a lot harder to balance out your weight.
Like changing swimming strokes, variety is good when it comes to wearing a bra. You should monitor how you’re feeling and what activities you’re doing that may require structural support more so than others. The key to wearing or not wearing a bra comes down to encouraging the body to learn how to work, not just bracing it tightly for a quick fix solution to back pain and postural problems.
Are bras purely cosmetic?
Not at all. The bra’s main function is to support the weight and structure of the breast. However, women often have a lot of tension and stiffness localised where the bra strap is placed. Tight bras can also severely affect the ribcage, as well as cause back and neck pain.
If bra straps are loose and the back strap is tight, it will result in incorrect balance. People often rely on the wrong bit of the bra – the back strap – without thinking of the uplift support. For example, if you’re wearing an underwire bra without straps, it’s virtually pointless.
In conjunction with regular bra fittings, women who suffer from back pain should consult an osteopath on how they move, the effects of their working and home environment, and get a list of exercises to help their mobility. Bras help muscles and the spine get into a better position, but it’s not a one-stop solution.
If you don’t wear a bra, what should you do to strengthen your core, back and shoulder muscles to prevent pain?
Stretching and activating muscles rather than strengthening is key to creating a strong muscle grouping. Floor-based breathing exercises which don’t demand anything on the posture will help, as well as using resistance bands that activate the muscles without overloading them.
An application of heat to stimulate blood flow to postural muscles should also be considered as well as a change of pillows. Consult an osteopath or GP for more information.
The Bra Expert
While many things seem out of our control right now during the pandemic, it’s important to take charge of the little things we can in life to ensure we maintain a health body and mindset.
That’s why it’s important to ensure that we give our bodies as much support while working from home as possible, whether that’s practicing certain yoga poses to alleviate lower back pain or wearing a bra to support our breasts.
We spoke to Carole Remy, communication manager from Empreinte, to find out her advice on whether to wear a bra at home.
Should we be wearing a bra while sat for prolonged periods of time at home?
The lockdown period may last a while, so it’s important to take care of your self esteem as much as possible.
Wearing a bra is not only necessary when you are active and in motion. Full breast support provides comfort, above all, but also allows to relieve back pain. Even when you’re doing your recommended 30 minutes of exercise every day, it’s important to remember that when we walk our breast move 3 to 4 cm and even more so when you practice a sporty activity.
Is now a good time to take a break from wearing a bra for our backs?
A breast can weigh more that a kilo when you are a D cup or above. The pressure on the whole body is huge, especially for the back. Remember that breasts are made up of fat, glandular and adipose tissues, and only the skin and the ligaments support them.
If you feel uncomfortable in your bras, most likely the problem lies with the bra itself. Perhaps you are not wearing the right size or the quality of your bra is not good enough to provide all the support and comfort you need.
When you wear a well fitted and textured bra, you should feel lighter, confident and almost forget that you are wearing one. While many women think that bra straps are the most important element of a bra to provide support, it’s actually the back fabric.
If you want to ditch your day-to-day bra all together, however, I’d advise opting for a sports bra or – ideally – how about trying a bra without under wiring? I suggest opting for a seamless or T-shirt bras which are really comfortable.
The Styling Expert
When it comes to buying bras, we’re ashamed to admit we can probably count on one hand how many times we’ve chosen to splash the cash on a well-fitted lace balconette bra than buying a round of drinks in the pub.
However, Rigby & Peller lingerie styling specialist Josie Fellows is here to explain why buying new bras should be seen as essential as visiting the dentist and not just another pay-day treat:
What are the health benefits of wearing a bra?
If a bra band fits correctly and is firm, the weight of the bust will be distributed which means the major muscle groups in the back, neck and shoulders won’t be put under any strain. In some cases, breathing can also feel easier as a correctly-fitted bra will lift the bust off of the ribcage. In addition, there’s also the obvious effect that a well-fitted bra is good for self-esteem and confidence.
Well, what makes a good fitting bra?
There are 6 steps to ensuring a good fitting bra:
- Band – 80 per cent of the support comes from the back band, therefore this must feel firm and not tight.
- Wires – when fitting we have to ensure the wires are sitting away from the breast tissue and, instead, sit on the rib cage.
- Cups – we want the cups to encompass the whole bust ensuring there isn’t any overspill or gaping.
- Straps – only 10 per cent of the support of a bra comes from the straps. The straps are not there to hold the bust up – that is the job of the back band. They should sit comfortably on your shoulders, not digging in but not slipping off. A rule of thumb is that you should be able to fit two fingers under each strap comfortably.
- Bridge – the bridge of the bra (the centre front part) should ideally sit flat against the body.
- How it feels – being comfortable is the most important factor. If you feel uncomfortable in a bra, the likelihood is is that you won’t wear it. Therefore, a different style or shape may be better.
Should we be wearing a bra 24/7 or is it good to give our boobs a break?
We wouldn’t recommend that you wear an underwired bra all day and all night. However, many of our clients find it comfortable to sleep in a non-wired bra in bed as it provides support, so it comes down to personal preference.
Are bralettes actually better for us when it comes to support and structure?
For a fuller busted lady, a bralette may not provide enough support and they would benefit more from wearing a well-fitted underwired bra. For smaller busts, bralettes are a great addition to a lingerie wardrobe but there are other shapes which would give better support and structure.
Will not wearing a bra make our boobs sag?
There’s no evidence that breast sagging is caused by not wearing a bra. Instead, there are a lot of biological and genetic factors that increase or decrease the likelihood of breast sagging. We do, however, recommend that you wear a sports bra during sports as not doing so can increase the risk of damage to the Cooper’s Ligaments in your bust.
Can underwiring in bras do any damage to our health?
The most important thing when you wear an underwired bra is that the wire sits behind the breast tissue, never on it. The best way to check this is to gently press against your wire – if the wire bounces back, this is an indication that it is sitting on tissue, not the rib cage. Flexible wires and wires that have padded casing around them will also feel more comfortable.
How often should we wash our bras and buy news ones?
Hand wash your lingerie, preferably after two or three wears. You should have a bra consultation at least every six months to make sure your bras are still fitting as they should and to keep your wardrobe updated . If you wear one bra every day the life of the bra is going to be around three months but if that bra is worn on rotation with others, there will be increased longevity.
Are there some fabrics that are better for our skin than others when it comes to irritation?
Similar to skin type and washing powder, we all react differently to different fabrics. Some clients can’t wear lace and can also opt for cotton options. Rigby & Peller’s Fit & Style process is a good way for clients to discuss any specific needs regarding skin sensitivity with a specialist.
This article originally appeared on ELLE US.