To Bra or Not to Bra? Health is the Question.

To Bra or Not to Bra? Health is the Question.

We’ve all seen women’s activists and supposed wellness experts telling women to burn their bras and that bras are a part of the patriarchy. I often see these posts, pointing out the fact that underwire prevents lymphatic drainage (it does) and that ‘there’s no evidence that gravity isn’t good for your breasts.’

Ok, ladies, we need to talk. You’re right- not all bras are good for you. However, there are consequences to wearing a bra and consequences to not wearing a bra, and both have been misrepresented. You deserve to know what you’re doing to your body either way. Here’s the skinny, without the political and ‘how you look to others’ stuff. Let’s just talk women’s health.

  1. Cellular Health: Did you know that the circulation in your breasts actually works better with a bra (as long as the bra is not redirecting the breast)? The healthiest location for your breasts from a circulation perspective is half way between the shoulder and the elbow. The one thing that bras can damage as far as cellular health is the lymph in the breast tissue. Lymph is a fluid in your body that is not moved independently from other movement. That means that you need to get up and move, exercise or whatever to move that lymph. It is also moved by your heart beat and breath, but not generally well enough to be enough to keep you healthy. Lymph is one of the ways that your body moves toxins like absorbed pollution and harmful chemicals out of tissues. If these toxins lay in the breast tissue, it increases the risk of cysts, tumors, skin problems, sores and even cancer. An underwire bra does prevent the lymph from moving because the wire runs right along the lymph acupressure points under the breast. This doesn’t mean you can’t wear bras. This means that if you wear an underwire bra you need to massage out the lymph manually at least once a day. If you don’t wear an underwire, your bra does not damage the lymph flow, but the massage feels pretty awesome anyway and won’t hurt if you’d like to try it. How do you do the massage? You simply take a few of your fingers and press them into the breast gently near the nipple, then swirl them outward from the nipple over the whole breast. Do this a few times on each breast and you’re done. I generally do this in the shower with the suds all over me because it makes my hands slippery and makes the movement easy. Do it for two weeks to try it out, and you’ll probably notice positive changes regardless of your bra status.
  2. Look and Shape: Frankly, if you’re worried about the look of your breasts for other people, then you’ve got more problems than a good, bad or non-existent bra and I encourage you to look at my book series that helps people heal their inner world so you can feel more valuable regardless of your body. However, you should know what’s up with shaping the breast because you might like to look a certain way. The breast itself doesn’t have muscle in it, therefore it is shaped by the muscle around it, beneath it, gravity, and the bra itself. If you want your breasts to be perkier, they’re not going to do that simply because you wear a bra or stop wearing a bra. The best thing you can do for perkier boobies is work the muscles under the arm and under the breast. The ones under the arm will move the breast forward, and the ones under the breast will help them seem firmer. Neither of these will make your breasts actually go ‘up’ more.
  3. Gravity: Gravity doesn’t just pull down your breasts when you don’t wear a bra. It also pulls the skin on your neck and face, leading to the appearance of more aging on both. Is gravity bad or good for your health? It doesn’t make that much of a difference except for appearance and the circulation issue already mentioned if they go lower than mid-way to the elbow. The other thing you should consider about gravity is what happens when you do physical activity. The torque of that movement can damage not only the connective tissue in the breast but also the tissue surrounding the breast. I often hear the argument that if women needed bras for activity, shield maidens from hundreds of years ago would have worn them. However, modern bras made of highly biodegradable textiles have been found dated back as far as 1390 (in Austria) and bra-like garments made of things like whale bones were used even further back and have been found in places like Viking graves. From what we can tell shield maidens did wear bras appropriate to their time.
  4. Back and Shoulder Pain: Bras should not cause pain at all ever. If they do, they’re not fitting you right. The support from a bra should come from below the breast, not the straps. If the support is coming from the straps, you’ll get straps that cut into your shoulders or cause pain. This is an indication that it’s not the right bra for you. On the flip side, though the evidence is anecdotal, it’s not uncommon for women above a B cup to experience back pain, poor posture and shoulder stress from not wearing a bra. However, that experience is dependent on cup size, not bra usage.
  5. Ribs: One of the major negative side effects is wearing a bra with a band that isn’t big enough. If the band of your bra is too tight, you can actually misshape the ribs that the band is over, making them curve inward. This can impair breathing. The solution is to wear a bra with a larger band size. If you put on weight and can’t afford a new bra, bra extender hooks are a thing and can be bought online or at craft stores for usually only a few dollars.
  6. Posture: Most women experience better posture with a bra, but again, this is going to depend on the woman’s cup size, muscle tone and contentiousness to her posture. Poor posture damages the spine and makes it harder for your internal organs to function. It also affects your mental health, as your posture creates chemical signals to the brain.

I hope this has helped you become more aware of what you want to do with your boob holder. I can’t encourage working with the muscles around the breasts enough, regardless of bra status, and I can’t encourage the lymphatic massage enough either (which also feels good!). Are bras part of an evil patriarchy trying to make women’s boobs about men? Listen. The first patent for the modern bra was given to an American woman by the name of Caresse Crosby, and if you take a look at her very artistic life, I’m pretty comfortable stating that she probably wouldn’t do something just for a man’s pleasure. Your bra (or lack of one) shouldn’t be about pleasing men OR proving that you’re not about men OR caving to social pressure from friends who think they’re helping either way. Your bra (or not) should be about you, your health and your comfort.


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