Why does your back hurt along your bra line? (+3 reasons)

In this article, we will discuss the reason for back pain along the bra line. We will also discuss some interventions which may reduce the upper back pain.

Why does your back hurt along your bra line?

Your back hurts along your bra line mainly because of an ill-fitting bra. A loose bra may not give support to your breasts. On the other hand, if your bra is too tight it may wear out quickly, limit your movement, put pressure on your breasts and ribcage, and cause serious back pain.

Upper back pain is more common in females who have large breasts or are obese. It may also occur in females who do not refit their bras during puberty, pregnancy, breast sagging, weight gain, and exercise. 

Theoretically, the breast weight puts a strain on the ligaments and muscles of the back which elicits pain, muscle soreness, and feeling of discomfort. However, back pain may be caused by other factors irrespective of breast size and gender.

What factors cause back pain along the bra line?

Various factors may cause back pain along the bra line, especially because of an ill-fitting bra. Other factors may include muscle weakness.

  • Bra fitting

Bra size changes with age, pregnancy, and breastfeeding. Incorrect bra and cup size may put stress on the shoulders, ribcage, and breasts. The volume of the breast should also correspond well with the bra cup. 

Wearing a non-supportive bra elicits back pain as it contributes to poor posture and weak back muscles. It may also cause sagging of the breasts and irreversible tissue damage. On the contrary, the wired bra (for support and uplift) also puts strain on the ribcage and causes back pain.

Some women experience bra strap syndrome which is characterized by pain in the neck, shoulder and back area. It is often accompanied with stiffness. The pain aggravates during exercise, using a mobile or laptop, or when lifting heavy objects.

  • Personal factors

Upper back pain along the bra strap may occur during the third trimester of pregnancy. As the baby grows, the ribs might ‘flare’ upwards, putting strain on the joints connecting the ribs to the spine. The mid-thoracic joints (around the bra strap) are affected the most.

Pregnancy and other factors may cause stress and anxiety. During stress, the muscles become stiff, tensed, and more sensitive to pain. It may cause stabbing, sharp, and shooting pain in the back along the bra line.

Women having menopause often complain of upper back pain. Because of relative estrogen insufficiency, postmenopausal women have faster disc deterioration. A research study suggests that upper back pain is lesser in taller females, and who have good upper back extensor muscle endurance (1). 

Poor posture and inactive lifestyle can lead to back muscle pain due to muscle weakness. Trauma and injury to breast tissue during exercise may cause upper back pain. During exercise, the breasts need double the support due to jumping, bending, and twisting.

What are the symptoms of back pain along the bra line?

The symptoms of back pain along the bra line might include:

  • Dull pain,
  • Tightness in the ribcage,
  • Throbbing feeling,
  • Muscle soreness in the shoulder, neck and back,
  • Shoulder blade pain.

How to manage back pain along the bra line?

It is important to wear a good quality and well-fitting bra to reduce back pain along the bra line. To begin, rather than relying on the straps, the bra should have a supporting band that wraps over the ribs.

To achieve a comfortable fit, the cup size should be enough to hold the breast volume. The straps should also be wide and adjustable, and not too tight on the shoulders. The bra material should be stretchable and breathable to reduce discomfort.

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): NSAIDs reduce the pain, inflammation, and swelling in the muscles. Examples include naproxen and ibuprofen.

Although they are available over-the-counter (OTC), for chronic and persistent pain higher doses may be required. Always take higher doses of NSAIDs on the prescription of a doctor. Naproxen may cause side effects including sleepiness, dizziness, and fatigue.

  • Exercise: Doing cardio exercises, stretching, and core strength exercises reduce upper back pain due to strengthing of the muscles between shoulder blades.

I experience persistent upper back pain around my bra line, especially when using a laptop. However, its intensity is dull and bearable and I rarely take any medication. When the pain becomes unbearable, you should take a break from the activities that intensify such pain.

Never exercise without wearing a sports bra as it may cause breast injury. There are various bras available in the market that may reduce back pain especially if you have larger breasts. Some women with large breasts may opt for breast reduction surgery to remove extra breast tissues.

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Spencer L, McKenna L, Fary R, Jacques A, Briffa K. Upper back pain in postmenopausal women and associated physical characteristics. PLoS One. 2019 Jul 31;14(7):e0220452. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6668906/