Is a poorly fitting bra causing you pain?

Upper back pain is one of the top reasons folks come to see us for massage. Lots of things, like staring at a computer for 8 hours a day or lugging a heavy backpack around, can contribute to back pain. But could the fit of your bra be causing pain as well? We checked in with the local experts at Confidentially Yours to find out.

Published in the journal Chiropractic & Osteopathy, a survey conducted in 2008 by bra manufacturer Triumph found that 80% of women were wearing the wrong size bra. There are numerous reasons why women are in the wrong bra size, from lack of information to embarrassment for asking for a fitting, but the effect is what everyone has in common—it’s bad for your body.

Back pain is one of the main conditions that physical therapists treat. What you choose to wear can have an impact on your posture, and thus, on your back pain. Experts warn that an ill-fitting and unsupportive bra can cause postural disorders and back pain as they cause the woman to slump forward in a slouched position and result in sharp or dull pain between the shoulder blades.

If your bra isn’t fitting correctly and the band is loose, it will ride up your back. It may not bother you, but it will cause you to roll your shoulders forward which can then strain your upper back muscles. Most of your bust’s weight is held by the bra’s band and when your band doesn’t fit correctly it can cause the weight of your breasts to shift to the shoulders which can lead to upper back pain. You want your band to be snug, but not uncomfortable. It should be level with the floor and not ride up on your back.

On a different note, if your bra is too tight, it can restrict the movement in your upper back, causing stiffness in the spine and restriction. This can cause a backache which can then develop into back pain. Suzanne Pentland, an expert bra fitter for the brand Freya, adds that “your bra should not move throughout the day. The band should be firm enough to sit in place but if it’s too big, your bra will move and this causes rubbing on the skin, which can cause irritation.” If your band is too snug or too loose and riding up, it may be time to get fitted.

Making sure you’re in the right size bra is also important if you live an active lifestyle. Any type of activity from walking to running to playing sports requires a good-fitting sports bra. Your breasts have ligaments called Coopers ligaments that support the tissue. Other than that, there’s not much going on in terms of support, which is why, if you’re doing any sort of physical activity, it’s important to wear a good fitting sports bra. The stretching of the ligaments can’t be reversed and can lead to sagging and back pain later on.

It’s also important to remember that your body goes through changes and this means your bra size might change as well. The staff at Confidentially Yours recommend getting a bra fitting every 3-6 months or when you have a lifestyle change, such as pregnancy or any type of weight gain or loss.

Got upper back pain? You may also like:

Simple Shoulder Exercise for Less Pain
Got Pain from Sitting at a Desk?
5 Tips for Neck and Shoulder Care Between Massage Appointments

Founded in 1982, by Jean Duden, Confidentially Yours has grown over the last 35 years to provide bras, breast forms, lingerie, shapewear, and swimwear for women of all shapes and sizes.

At Confidentially Yours, we promise to help you maintain a positive self-image by providing you with the best possible fit, great service and compassion. We want you to look and feel your best so you can be your best.   

Free Class with Healthy Tips for After Breast Cancer Surgery

SunflowerI recently heard about a free class offered at the Mills Breast Cancer Institute. I asked local Physical Therapist,  Kim Mills, to tell us about it.

This FREE class is available to ALL pre and post breast surgery patients (not just for Carle patients). Patients are welcome to attend the class before or after their surgery or even both, if they find that helpful, but the class content remains the same each time.

Classes are held monthly on the second Wednesday and fourth Friday at the Mills Breast Cancer Institute. To reserve your spot call (217)383-6636.

Can you tell me a bit about the Arise class and how it helps women who have had mastectomies?

The Arise class is designed to give breast surgery patients helpful information to further promote their healing process. This class is a one-hour class which includes scar healing techniques, gentle range of motion exercises, lymphedema education/prevention tips, and much more. Class participants have been grateful for the class and have stated how beneficial the information has been in helping them to know what they can and should be doing after their surgery.

The class has been named “Arise” because it’s so important for patients to realize the importance of getting up and getting moving again after their surgery (as long as their doctors haven’t given them any movement limitations).

What’s your favorite thing about the community here?

I Love how Bike-able this community is becoming and the many beautiful parks in Champaign/Urbana.

What’s your favorite local lunch place?

Favorite lunch spot would be Milo’s in Urbana! Lovely setting and delicious food!

Kim Mills, PT


Kim Mills is a PT who works for Carle Foundation Hospital. She’s taught this class since 2012 and is so thankful for the anonymous donor who makes this class possible through giving via the Carle Philanthropy Center.


Physical Therapy for Cancer Survivors. Ask the Expert.

weightsI frequently suggest folks talk to their doctors about physical therapy, whether they are recovering from injury or experiencing cording in the underarm area or swelling post-cancer treatment (lymphedema).  I interviewed Elizabeth Camp, a Physical Therapist at Carle to find out more about the benefits of physical therapy for cancer survivors. 

What is the most common reason cancer survivors seek out physical therapy?
There are many reasons that a cancer survivor might seek out therapy.

1) Some patients have a new onset of swelling in the arm , leg or trunk either immediately following treatment which doesn’t resolve or even years into survivorship. New presentations of edema that occurs after an extended time out from surgery or radiation should be assessed by the MD before referral for CDT intervention. (Note from Karyn: CDT is Complete Decongestive Therapy)

2) Patients may benefit from education regarding stage 0 lymphedema, prevention tactics, fitting of prophylactic compression to wear during high risk activities such as travel and heavy exercise, and skin care/protection against infection. Cellulitis is a frequent cause of lymphedema onset in patients that have completed treatment and did not have lymphedema initially. (note from Karyn: lymphedema ranges from stage 0 or no visible swelling to stage 3 or severe swelling)

3) Some patients have issues with limited shoulder mobility following surgery/radiation which can be addressed.

4) Limitations in shoulder/elbow mobility that is accompanied by “tightness” extending down the arm into the elbow or wrist can be an indication of axillary web syndrome (AWS). AWS most often is present during treatment or immediately following surgery/radiation interventions.

5) Various chemotherapy agents can impact the patients general health resulting in decreased strength, endurance, and can result in cardio-pulmonary limitations. Patients may benefit from therapy to direct a supervised rehabilitation program as they try to resume their former activity level.

What are the benefits of physical therapy for cancer survivors?

Physical/Occupational therapy can be of benefit for cancer survivors in many ways.
1) Education provision regarding lymphedema, expected prognosis, options for treatment
2) Supervised exercise programming to improve function and activity tolerance
3) Preventative or maintenance compression garment measurement and fitting
4) Instruction in home manual lymph drainage/exercise/compression/skin care program to prevent progression of lymphedema.

You teach lymph drainage massage to breast cancer survivors. How important is this in preventing the development of lymphedema post cancer treatment?

Manual lymph drainage is a technique that helps to increase lymph drainage from the involved region either through remaining pathways or by re-routing the drainage through another regional node system. This drainage is very important to the prevention of lymphedema onset. Lymphedema occurs when the high protein fluid is allowed to accumulate in the tissue resulting in progression of the edema from Stage 0 to Stage 1 or even Stage 2.

What do you love about the community here?
I enjoy the “small town” feel of C-U while still having the amenities of a much larger community.

What’s your favorite local lunch place?

I have a number of local lunch places that I enjoy. The Black Dog has wonderful barbecue and I have a favorite salad at Atties. It always surprises me the number and variety of good restaurants that are available in the downtown area of Champaign Urbana.

A PT/OT prescription is required before you can be scheduled for treatment. Prescriptions can be faxed to 217- 383-3567.

Elizabeth Camp, PT-MHS, CWS, CLT-LANA
Elizabeth Camp, PT-MHS, CWS, CLT-LANA

Elizabeth has been a practicing physical therapist for 30+ years. She has been a certified wound specialist through the American Board of Wound Management for 11 years. She is currently on staff at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, IL providing lymphedema treatment for both primary and secondary lymphedema patients.

Elizabeth provides lymphedema treatment to patients both during and following cancer treatment. She provides care to patients with many different types of cancer related lymphedema including not only breast and gynecologic cancers but also head and neck as well as soft tissue cancers. Additionally she works with the Carle Wound Healing Center providing lymphedema intervention and adjunctive therapies to patients with chronic wounds and/or lymphedema.

Elizabeth has provided professional continuing education for a number of years. She developed and teaches the current “ Wound Care for Lymphedema “course through Klose Training which educates practicing lymphedema therapists how to effectively address wounds associated with lymphedema. She has presented at the Carle- Skin Care Symposium in 2006, 2010 and 2015. She has provided education to multiple support groups/gatherings for cancer survivors in the CU community.

Is Yoga for Everyone? Ask the Expert.

yogi performing headstand on beachI’m always recommending yoga or some type of movement to complement your massage care. But we’ve all seen the photos of the super bendy yogis. That’s pretty intimidating!  One of the reasons I love yoga is that anyone can practice it. Anyone, really. I interviewed one of my favorite yoga instructors, Rachel Bass-Guennewig, to tell us a bit about yoga. She teaches a variety of classes, including gentle yoga and a chair-based yoga class. Plus she’s just an awesome person to be around.

What is the most common reason folks come to your yoga classes?

I think the most common reason people come to Daily Bread Yoga classes is because someone they trust invited them. Many come with little to no experience with yoga and are intimidated by the whole idea. I think they keep coming back because it feels like an accepting, fun, and friendly environment to learn more and practice yoga. We meet in church buildings, people know each other in class, and while I take the practice of yoga really seriously, I don’t take myself too seriously. Each class forms into a little community that is welcoming as people come and go. For better or worse, it’s hard to be anonymous in my class.

Is there a common misconception about yoga that you would like to clear up?

There are so many misconceptions about yoga; where to begin?! One misconception for sure is that it is “just stretching”, so you need to be flexible. While your muscles will definitely be stretched, they will also be strengthened, turned, and allowed to rest. There is so much happening in the body during a yoga class because your body is an amazingly dynamic machine. So, building strength in your back might allow you to stretch and open up across your chest. And then you might find that you breathe better. And then you just feel better. And then you sleep better. And then you digest food better. And because you feel better you make a few better choices about what you eat. There is so much more happening than we know in yoga, even if you think it is “just stretching”.

What are the benefits of yoga for someone in cancer treatment?

There is lots of research and special articles about yoga and people with cancer. I can tell you my thoughts based on the people who have done yoga with me while they are going through cancer treatment, recovering, and sadly right even until the time of their death. A gentler yoga, maybe practiced with a chair, provides some meaningful physical activity to do with your body that isn’t very strenuous or full of big expectations of accomplishing something. Yoga isn’t about “fixing” what’s wrong with you, but being present in the wholeness of your body, even in the midst of cancer. I think it provides a little break, mentally and physically from trying so hard to fight against what is happening inside your body. In every class we start with gratitude for being able to show up at all for class, despite frustrations with your body, anxiety, grief, or loneliness. It takes some serious determination to show up at a yoga class, especially when you are going through or recovering from cancer.

How long have to been in practice here in Champaign, IL?

I have been teaching yoga in Champaign-Urbana since about 2007. Back then I taught at the Living Yoga Center (during the Deb Lister era) and at the Lutheran Campus ministry where I worked on the U of I campus. I lived in Seattle and taught yoga, 2009-2012. I have been leading Saturday Morning Retreats and weekly classes through Daily Bread Yoga since moving back to Champaign-Urbana in 2012. I also teach a class at the Stephens Family YMCA and have two private yoga students. I have been and continue to train in Adaptive Yoga with Mind Body Solutions in Minnesota, working with people with a wide range of abilities and disabilities. This fall I will offer two classes at the Disability Resources & Educational Services at the University of Illinois. One class will be for people with physical disabilities, limiting their ability to stand and walk. The other class will be for people with a wide range of other disabilities such as PTSD, Autism, or anxiety disorders. I am so excited to be part of expanding the yoga community in Champaign-Urbana!

What do you love about the community here?

What I love about the Champaign-Urbana community is the incredible concentration of interesting people and places without ever having to get on the highway or pay in large bills for parking.

What’s your favorite local lunch place?

One of my favorite places for lunch is at Common Ground Food Co-Op. I love that roasted squash sandwich. Yum. Yum. And the pizza. yum.

About Rachel

Rachel Bass-Guennewig, Yoga InstructorRachel Bass-Guennewig leads weekly classes and Saturday morning retreats through Daily Bread Yoga, at 6 different church locations (Lutheran, Presbyterian, United Methodist, Disciples of Christ). While Rachel’s background as a Lutheran pastor definitely informs and gives shape to her yoga practice and teaching, she is not a “Christian Yoga” instructor. She welcomes and celebrates having a diverse community of people practicing yoga together. Rachel completed her 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training in Indianapolis with Nikki Meyers, an innovative yoga instructor who has created Y12SR – Yoga 12 Step Recovery; a yoga practice supporting people in addiction recovery. Rachel has also trained with James Fox of Prison Yoga Project, and Off The Mat-Into The World’s Leadership Training of Yoga for Social Change. Most recently Rachel completed Advanced Studies with Mind Body Solutions, in Minnesota, a world renowned center for Adaptive Yoga, founded by Matthew Sanford, an incredible yoga instructor and practitioner who is paralyzed from the chest down. You can learn more about Rachel and Daily Bread Yoga on her blog, Daily Bread Yoga.