A massive 80% of women wear ill-fitting bras, with 70% wearing one that is too small and 10% donning one that's too big. It's easy to forget about or simply ignore the importance of keeping our breasts comfy, so here's how to look after yours, and easy ways to find the perfect bra for you...
Why the wrong bra is a genuine health concern
It's not just discomfort that you could face by buying the wrong size; a badly fitting bra can have serious consequences for your overall health. According to Tim Allardyce, Clinical Director at Surrey Physio, says, 'A bra that is too tight restricts movement in the upper back, causing stiffness in the spine. Spines are designed to move, to bend, to rotate, but experts believe that the section where the bra strap is often has a localised stiffness at the spine.'
And for those of us who are slightly more endowed, bra fit is even more important as there is more weight to support. For larger breasts, Tim says, 'A poorly fitting bra offers a lack of support to the cleavage, which then means the neck and upper back muscles are having to work harder to support the weight of the breasts.
As soon as the neck muscles become overworked, you are far morelikely to get headaches (known as cervicogenic headaches, or neck in origin headaches).'
1. It feels uncomfortable/painful/noticeable
Whether the underwire is poking into you, the band is moving around, or it's too tight and is leaving marks on your body, the bra shop is calling your name. For something that most women wear for the majority of their waking life, there's no need to spend all of that time uncomfortable. This applies to both underwired and non-underwired bras, as both can cause discomfort.
2. You can fasten it on its tightest setting when brand new
If you try on a new bra and you can only comfortable fasten it on the loosest hook, then the band fits you properly. The reason for the multiple hook settings is to allow adjustment as the bra stretches from use. If you can easily set it at its tightest during the first wear, then you need to get a smaller band. If it's become loose on its tightest hook (even after being washed) it's likely time for a new one.
3. The straps slide off or dig into your shoulders
The latter can indicate that your straps are holding too much of your breast weight. Your straps should stay firmly on your shoulders, without creating dents or red marks, as they're not actually necessary to hold your breasts up. If the band size is too small, your straps will take on the extra strain causing them to dig into your shoulders. Just as your straps shouldn't be too tight, they shouldn't be too loose either. If they're sliding off your shoulders then you will need to adjust the length to be shorter.
4. Breast tissue is bulging out of the top of the cups
If your breasts look like they're trying to escape, your bra is likely too small. This doesn't always reflect your breast size though, as certain bra styles are more likely to create bulge than others. Push-up bras tend to have some form of padding in them (even in the larger cup sizes in order to create the desired cleavage) so you may need to go up a cup size for them to fit properly.
5. Your breasts poke out under the bra slightly when you raise your arms
Just as they shouldn't be escaping on top, they shouldn't be underneath either. This can not only mean the cup is too small, but that the band is too loose as it shouldn't be coming away from your sternum. The centre piece of the bra between the two cups is called the 'gore', and should lie flat against your sternum (as should the underwiring).
6. The back band isn't in line with the front
The back of the bra shouldn't ride up, as this will cause the front to move down and provide less support for your breasts. Like the front, it should sit firmly against your back and not dig in.
7. Your body has changed but your bras haven't
When you lose or gain weight, you'll probably buy new clothes to fit your body better; this should be the same for your bras. As your body changes size/shape (e.g. becoming pregnant or after childbirth), your bra is unlikely to fit you anymore. Any time you notice a change in your overall body size, it's worth going for a professional fitting, otherwise you'll have spent all this money on new outfits but feel uncomfortable underneath them.
Not only does one size does not fit all, not everyone fits only one size. Depending on the style and shop, you may have to go up or down a cup/band size to find what's most comfortable. If in any doubt, ask for a fitting and they will be able to find the perfect fit for you.
So shopping is good for your health!