What’s the harm if my bra doesn’t fit?

by Ginger on March 25, 2010

in I'm a Disaster

I spent a boatload of money on bras this week.

Gah, just typing that kills me a little inside. I loathe spending money on bras, and that feeling is amplified by the fact that I’m currently nursing and so I’m pretty sure that all the bras I just bought won’t fit me when I’m done nursing, if not before. There are SOOOOO many other things I would have liked to spend that money on. So WHY did I spend a lot of money on bras?

Because my doctor and chiropractor told me to.

See, I’m still having a lot of neck and shoulder pain, complete with numbness in my fingers and hands. It’s been two weeks of this and let me tell you, it’s driving me crazy. Anyway, while we’re working on the acute pain, I’ve been trying to get to the bottom of WHY this is happening, and what I can do about it.

One thing that everyone has cued into is that I have pretty bad posture.  Which is weird because I always thought I had fantastic posture. But over the years since my colorguard and dancing days, my shoulders have hunched forward and my neck has moved forward and down. This seems to be what is pinching the nerves, adding tension to the tendons and muscles in my neck and causing a lot of my pain (along with stress. Stress never helps.).

Anyway, according to the professionals who are treating me, it seems that this horrible posture can be traced to a few things:

  • Nursing and carrying around a wriggly squirmy baby. Since I’m not going to stop doing either of those things, this is not something I can do anything about.
  • Sitting at a computer 8-12 hours a day. I’m working with my office to get myself a more ergonomic setup going, (and one that has a head/neck rest on the chair so that I have some support) but other than that, it’s not like I can reduce my working computer time, so you know, that sucks.
  • And yes, here we are: my bra. According to my doctor (and some of the internet research I have done), an ill fitting bra can lead to some or all of the following: shoulder pain, pulling the upper back forward and down, neck pain, headaches, pinched nerves, muscle aches and pains.

I’m sure we’ve all heard the statistics that something like 85% of women are wearing the wrong sized bra. I’ve always figured that that number was probably somewhat inflated to help the lingerie industry drive people to bra fittings and buying new bras. But I also have thought that it’s probably not total fiction.

Think about it, when was the last time you actually got a bra fitting, and didn’t just grab the size you *think* you are? And when that bra didn’t feel right, you either went and got one size different or just assumed it was the cut of that particular brand? Or how many of you got fitted once, 5 years ago, and kept buying that size, regardless of what body changes you’ve had?

And those of you who are pregnant or have had kids, did you get resized at any point in the process? Did you just go back to your pre-pregnancy size after you were done nursing or had lost all the baby weight? Or, like me, did you get fitted once (2 weeks after your baby was born), and kept wearing that size for 6 more months?

Yeah, most of us don’t go get sized when we lose weight or something happens to our body like pregnancy or hell, getting older. We found a number/letter combo once upon a time and we tend to hold pretty close to that even as time goes on. Prior to the nursing bra sizing, I think I’d had a bra fitting maybe once (I don’t count Victoria’s Secret), and that was probably 4 or 5 years ago. My body has changed so much over that time, I’d be crazy to think I was the same size.

And of course, getting sized for a bra so soon after giving birth? Yeah, that was smart. Because there’s NO WAY I would, you know, lose large amounts of weight or have my cup size regulate as my milk supply did, or anything like that.

So, yeah, bra fittings–I now wholeheartedly endorse them. Because turns out I was wearing a bra that was 3 band sizes and 2 cup sizes wrong. Which I’m sure (and my doctors are sure) has something to do with my back pain. So ladies, my own personal PSA here? If you haven’t recently, go get fitted. If you end up with the same size, at least you’ll know for sure, and yay for you! If not, then maybe you can save yourself some of the pain I’ve had the past two weeks.

Some additional facts for my PSA:

  • The band should be the majority of the support, with the straps adding just a little bit extra lift for the girls. If the band doesn’t fit, that’s where a lot of your problems will come from.
  • In the back, pull the band away from your back. If it comes away more than an inch or so, the band is most likely too big.
  • You should buy your bra with the band fitting on the first set of hooks, so that as the elastic stretches out over time you can move to the next set and next set. This will give your bra a longer life. (This seems like a duh statement, but I know I used to buy bras if they fit on the last set of hooks and then was surprised when the bra didn’t fit two months later.)
  • You should not be trying to make the straps do the heavy lifting. They are a support to the main show (the band), so if you’re constantly trying to get the straps tighter to keep the girls up, you’re probably wearing the wrong size.
  • It can take 3-5 wears for a band to stretch out, so a bra may feel a little tighter when you buy it than it will be once you’ve broken it in. But you don’t want to buy a band that’s too loose for the same reason–it will stretch over those wears and could get too loose for the support.
  • According to the store I was in, the ideal is that you don’t wear the same bra everyday, instead rotating through a variety, and that you wash a bra after 3 wears. This will help give the elastic in the band (and the underwire if the bra has one) a longer life.

In the end, I needed to buy all new bras, in an attempt to help my back, posture and pain level. But even if you don’t have those problems, don’t we all deserve bras that fit? They’re one of those items that most of us wear every single day–and yet we tend to “just make due” with old, ill-fitting, and stretched out bras. If we’ve got to wear them, we might as well wear ones that fit us, support us, enhance us, and flatter us!

Carrie Meadows March 25, 2010 at 7:15 pm

Well, on a good day I might fill up my A cup bras, so I’m not spending any money in that department. That said, my posture and alignment were all jacked after having a baby and wearing him around for a year. Chiropractic did nothing for me. Yoga is what helped. It wasn’t overnight, but after several months I notice a real change. Have you tried acupuncture for the CT?

Ginger March 25, 2010 at 7:25 pm

These darn kids wreck havoc on our bodies! Lucky they’re worth it 😉
I want to do some yoga, but the pain right now is so acute that I can’t even think of anything but pain management. Acupuncture is the next thing I’m going to try, if I can find someone reputable in the area.

Rebecca @ Diary of a Virgin Novelist March 25, 2010 at 8:53 pm

I just wish they weren’t so damn expensive!

Ginger March 25, 2010 at 8:56 pm

I know! They are so expensive, especially when you’re in the higher band/cup sizes!

Ally March 26, 2010 at 5:16 am

Those are useful facts. I can totally see where wearing the wrong size could cause all sortss of problems — bras kind of do a major job 🙂

I hope your shoulder feels better soon!

Lizzie March 26, 2010 at 6:42 am

I always get measured for a bra, because my boobs like to grow and shrink – thank god for cheap Walmart bras because otherwise I’d be spending my months wages on the things!!! There’s nothing better than a bra that lifts you up, and hoiks you in – sorry for the crude phrasing ha!!

Nilsa @ SoMi Speaks March 26, 2010 at 6:34 am

I just bought new bras over the weekend. And for many of the reasons you stated, I went up a cup size (which is two bigger than the standard size I thought I was for years – I went up one cup size last year and another this year). Next step should definitely be to get a professional fitting … and then I’ll likely need a whole new set of bras, too!

Brooke March 26, 2010 at 3:55 pm

Wash a bra every three wears?! Are they kidding?

I bought a new bra recently, mostly because I was too ashamed to tell the small lingerie store that I didn’t like lacy, itchy bras. Yeah, I have a problem with saying, “No thanks.” I’m in therapy for it 😉

Miss Kitty Plum March 27, 2010 at 8:38 am

If you find a good lingerie boutique they will fit you every time you go in and try a bra on. They should never pressure you into buying something you aren’t comfortable in. You’re right the bras in the larger cup sizes are more expensive but a bit more engineering is required to keep your lovelies high and dry. In Prima Donna bras there are 55 different components hand cut and sewn. If you hand wash bras they always last longer, I know, I know it’s a complete pain. But if you pop them in the washing machine stick them in a little lingerie bag and put them on cool delicate wash…

Beth March 28, 2010 at 7:40 am

I know I wear the wrong bra size, but I don’t have too many options. I get the right band size and the biggest cup size that Lane Bryant carries because they are the only ones whose bras are actually comfortable and natural looking to me. The only way to get my real cup size is to order something my grandma would wear and somehow I always end up looking like Madonna in her cone bra. Not exactly the look I am going for!

Kate March 28, 2010 at 1:50 pm

I remember the first time I bought a non-nursing bra, post-baby. I had finally realized that I wasn’t constantly undoing my shirt and exposing myself – so it was time to treat myself to something new and pretty. I wanted lace and I wanted colors – no blah white or cream.

So, I went to the store – signed up a for a fitting and the first question I got asked was “what size are you?” and my response was “it constantly changes”. Before Beckett nurses I am a D, after she nurses I am flabby A cup. But, low and behold the store carried a body temperature sensitive bra. The cup conforms to what is inside – the size and shape. I got a cup size somewhere in the middle – a C – and low and behold, I wore it happily through the rest of my nursing months and beyond. It was a god-send bra and it made me feel beautiful – like a woman, not a milk machine. 🙂

Jessica March 28, 2010 at 5:32 pm

I have always had trouble with bras fitting. We have something in Chicago called Intimacy (store) and it has a specialized bra fitting program. It’s supposed to be really good and people SWEAR by it.

Dana March 31, 2010 at 1:29 pm

EEWWW! I hate buying bras. I have gotten fitted at victoria secret several times. You can buy their bras on ebay for about $17.
Here’s why I hate buying bras: they ARE expensive, and half the time they don’t fit as well as you thought they did in the store! You really are taking a chance with ALL of that money!!
About the posture and neck pain–I have bad posture too. I’ve alwas thought it was because of weak tummy muscles. That’s my excuse anyway!
As a massage therapist, I tell my clients to start getting in the habit of sleeping on your back. Sleeping on your stomach is the worst! Sleeping on your side is not as bad, but sleeping on your back is better. Plus, it helps to reduce self inflicted face and chest wrinkles. Sleeping on your back is also the best way to cure a crick.
If you have not tried “Ashiatsu” massage, you should. Some people think it’s weird, but it is a deep massage without the pain. Another alternative would be bamboo or stones (in that order).
If getting a massage is too expensive, go to a massage therapy school and you can usually get in on their clinics for about $20 + tip.

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