by Scott Frothingham - Medically reviewed by Stacy Sampson, D.O.
Many people experience upper back pain at some point in their lives, whether as a result of intense exercise, poor posture, or injury.
Symptoms of upper back pain may include aching muscles and a stabbing pain in your upper back.
Many people believe large breasts are a cause for upper back pain in women. The theory is that the breasts’ weight strains the ligaments and muscles in the back, resulting in discomfort.
This appears to be a logical connection, but upper back pain is a common condition anyone can experience — regardless of sex or breast size. So, what does the research say?
Can Large Breasts Cause Pain in Your Upper Back?
The relationship between large breasts and upper back pain appears to be somewhat more complex involving multiple other factors. However, a limited amount of research has demonstrated what appears to be a link between large breasts and upper back pain.
A small 2013 study of postmenopausal women did find thoracic (upper back) pain was associated with larger breasts. But a majority of the participants had overweight or obesity. Some of the participants also wore improperly sized bras.
This supports the claim that it’s likely that other factors, like higher body weight or a pinched nerve, are additional primary contributors to upper back pain.
There are a number of causes of upper back pain. They include:
- Injury to the discs in your back, such as herniation
- Osteoarthritis as a result of the breakdown of cartilage in your spine
- Myofascial pain
- Vertebral fracture
Upper back pain isn’t the only discomfort people have believed to be related to breast size.
A 2012 study examined the relationship between breast size, bra cup size, and pain in participants’ shoulders and neck. Researchers concluded large cup size was an important contributor to shoulder and neck pain.
Can wearing the wrong bra size cause upper back pain?
A small 2008 study on breast size, bra fit, and thoracic pain in young women found 80 percent of participants were wearing the incorrect bra size.
What’s more, women with larger breasts were more likely to wear an incorrect bra size. It’s a common belief the wrong fit — and the poor posture that results from it — can lead to upper back pain.
Researchers said bra fit appeared to be unrelated to pain. But if a bra was poorly fitted, it could impair its function as breast support. This could, in turn, cause certain levels of discomfort.
Breast size is commonly blamed for upper back pain, as are improperly fitted bras. Though research hasn’t shown breast size to be the only determining factor in upper back pain, it may be a contributing factor in some cases.
You can ease your back pain by strengthening the core muscles in your abdomen and back. Or you can use a quality lumbar pillow like Apilloz to provide relief to shoulders or upper back while lying down.
Maintaining sufficient levels of vitamin D and calcium may also help ease back pain.
There’s also literature showing that breast reduction surgery may reduce back pain by helping to allow for better posture. This is, however, something one would need to discuss closely with their physician when considering the source of pain and treatments available.
If your back pain persists or increases in intensity, visit your doctor. The earlier you get a diagnosis, the sooner you can get treatment and relief.