Posted by on May 29, 2013 - 9:47am

Breasts—especially those that scale towards the large end of the spectrum—are often named as a scapegoat for back pain in women. However, it’s likely that much of the blame is misplaced. This misdirected implication could be leading women to false self-diagnoses and even unnecessary medical procedures.

Many women experience back pain and, without a more apparent culprit to blame, turn to those (literally) right under their noses. It’s not surprising that people want to point the finger at breasts as back pain contributors. After all, it seems intuitive to think that bulky weights attached to the upper torso would throw the entire body off balance and put extra stress on the spine and muscles that support it. When considering that these weights are present through every moment of every day of your life, and suddenly this seems like a very logical diagnosis.

In reality, though, breasts are rarely the primary contributor to most varieties of back pain. The human back, when healthy and normal, is more than strong enough to support even a fairly large chest through the years. Instead, there are many more common factors that cause back pain in women such as

  • Obesity that causes undue and constant stress to the entire body
  • Pregnancy and the related physiological changes
  • Non-optimal bra size
  • Chronic poor posture
  • Injury or overexertion of the muscles or bones in the back
  • Irritation of spinal nerves through disc herniation or bulging
  • A weakening of the spine through osteoporosis and similar conditions

Compared to these pain originators, breasts are much less likely to cause a painful condition themselves. However, they can exacerbate an existing condition. Breasts can make bad posture worse, will add additional stress to pulled muscles, and make it harder for injured discs to heal.

There are some steps women can take to avoid or remedy back pain that could be contributed to by the weight of breasts. The most important is to keep as healthy of a body overall as possible through diet and exercise. This will help ensure a strong back which will be able to easily support breast weight and more. It will keep weight at a manageable level to reduce excess stress on muscles and joints, and speed healing from any injuries. Care must be taken to avoid overexertion like strains and sprains, which cause pain more directly.

In some cases, it’s possible that a woman’s breasts are a primary cause for her back pain. This happens most frequently when a relatively small person has disproportionately large breasts. A reduction surgery may be recommended by doctors if the breasts are causing chronic pain and compromising the woman’s happiness. Back pain can also occur after a time a rapid breast size increase, like after a breast augmentation surgery. Over time this pain usually fades as the body adjusts to the new size, but a reduction or reversal of the surgery may also be recommended if the pain is persistent.

Women have, understandably, blamed breasts for unexplained back pain. Before jumping to conclusions or turning to extreme treatments, however, they should always be careful to consider more likely culprits than those on their chests first.

Guest Author Jamie Arnold is a staff writer & content editor for Jamie is also a yoga enthusiast, animal lover and avid traveler who loves to blog about health, fitness, and back pain relief.




Posted by on September 17, 2012 - 11:49am

Acupuncture provides more relief from various types of chronic pain than does usual care and should be considered a valid therapeutic option, according to Andrew J. Vickers, DPhil of Memorial Sloan Kettering in NYC and colleagues who conducted  a meta-analysis of raw data from 29 studies.

For back and neck pain, osteoarthritis, and chronic headache, pain scores among patients treated with acupuncture were  below the pain scores for patients receiving sham acupuncture. The pain score improvement was even larger when acupuncture was compared with no acupuncture, the researchers reported online in Archives of Internal Medicine.

Acupuncture is recognized as having certain physiologic effects that can contribute to pain relief, but no plausible mechanism has been identified that could lead to long-term benefits for chronic pain, with the result that the treatment remains "highly controversial," according to the researchers.   Many controlled studies of acupuncture for pain have been published, but quality has been inconsistent and reliability has been questioned.

To provide more clarity about the effects of acupuncture on pain, Vickers and colleagues conducted an individual patient data meta-analysis based exclusively on high quality randomized trials.  Included trials required pain of at least a month's duration, with the primary endpoint being assessed at least a month after acupuncture treatment began.

This is "of major importance for clinical practice," meaning that acupuncture should be considered "a reasonable referral option for patients with chronic pain," they stated.

In an invited commentary accompanying the meta-analysis, Andrew L. Avins, MD, of Kaiser-Permanente in Oakland, Calif., argued that the benefits indeed were primarily those associated with the placebo effect, because the pain relief was so much greater when acupuncture was compared with usual care than when compared with the sham procedure.

But whether that should mean acupuncture has no value for patients, largely because of uncertainty as to its mechanisms of action, is a crucial concern, he pointed out.

"The ultimate question is: does this intervention work (or, more completely, do its benefits outweigh its risks and justify its cost)?" Avins wrote.

For acupuncture, the current meta-analysis offers "some robust evidence" that acupuncture does provide greater chronic pain relief than usual care, mechanisms of effect aside.

"Perhaps a more productive strategy at this point would be to provide whatever benefits we can for our patients, while we continue to explore more carefully all mechanisms of healing," Avins concluded.

Primary source: Archives of Internal Medicine
Vickers A, et al "Acupuncture for chronic pain: individual patient data meta-analysis" Arch Intern Med 2012; DOI: 10.1001/archinternmed.2012.3654.

Posted by on October 28, 2011 - 7:42am

Yoga can relieve lower back pain, but it’s the stretching that helps, not the meditation. A new study found that yoga and regular stretching were equally effective at improving lower back pain symptoms, suggesting that the mindfulness promoted by yoga doesn’t do much for certain hurts.

More than 200 adults with lower back pain were randomly assigned to take yoga classes, stretching classes or to read a book about exercise and lifestyle changes. Both the yoga and stretching classes focused on strengthening the back and leg muscles.

After 12 weeks, people who did yoga or stretching were more likely to say their back pain was better, much better or completely gone compared with those who read the self-care book, researchers at the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle found. Those who did yoga or stretching were also able to decrease their medications.

For people considering stretching or yoga to improve back pain, study author Karen Sherman said it’s important that the classes are therapeutically oriented, designed for beginners and led by instructors who can modify postures depending on individual physical limitations.

The findings were published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.