If you wear a bra, then you are already aware of some of the discomforts that accompany them. What many may not be aware of is something called Bra Strap Syndrome.
This may also sometimes be referred to as Costoclavicular Syndrome or Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. But what is Bra Strap Syndrome exactly? Let’s take a look.
History of Bra Strap Syndrome
With the soldiers the syndrome was due to the carrying of heavy, oversized backpacks. This resulted in problems with mobility and weakness and/or pain in the arms, noticeable while the soldiers were standing at attention.
What Bra Strap Syndrome Is for Women
When a woman wears a bra with the wrong size straps it can result in several issues. One such complication can be excess pressure on the shoulders. This is especially an issue from wearing bras that have straps that are too narrow or too small.
In addition to the shoulders, it can also cause undue pressure on the collarbone. All of this extra pressure can lead to your Thoracic Outlet (the space between the collar bone and first rib) closing up.
In turn, all of this can result in the compressing of the nerves throughout the torso.
Damage to these nerves can cause a multitude of issues, including:
- Limited movement in arms
- Tingling sensation (pins and needles) in arms
- Weakness throughout arms and/or hands
- Indentions in the shoulders
- Blue and/or swollen hands and fingers
Who Is Affected by Bra Strap Syndrome?
Literally anyone who wears a bra regularly can be affected. It can be women of any age or shape, as most women do not wear proper fitting bras.
However, Bra Strap Syndrome is more likely to occur in older women and/or obese women. Just as likely, those women with larger breasts who choose smaller, thinner strapped bras will have an increased risk.
How Do You Know if You Have Bra Strap Syndrome?
There are several tell-tale signs that you may be suffering from Bra Strap Syndrome. A few of these symptoms may include:
- Pain in the shoulders accompanied by tingling in the hands
- Marks or indentions on the shoulders that remain after your bra is removed
- Feeling pain when moving your shoulder with no other soreness or weakness noticed
- Your hands turn bluish and be swollen or puffy
While no definitive test is available to diagnose Bra Strap Syndrome, the most important clue will be the deep indentions on your shoulders.
You may also notice that pressing down on the marks on your shoulders that it brings some relief. This may very well indicate nerve damage. Your doctor should be consulted to help further identify if you are suffering from Bra Strap Syndrome.
Caring for Bra Strap Syndrome
Again, while there is no clear cut test to diagnose Bra Strap Syndrome, you can take measures to care for the symptoms.
One key point to care for your damaged nerves is to eliminate the cause! If you are wearing a bra with small, thin straps that are digging into your shoulders, get rid of them. Instead, change to either strapless or wide strapped bras.
In addition to changing your bra style, there are steps that may minimize the pain you suffer from Bra Strap Syndrome. Taking the time to practice these simple suggestions could make a tremendous difference.
- Moist Heat (apply for 5-10 minutes helps loosen muscles)
- Stretch It Out (through yoga, etc. while focusing especially on your torso and between the chest and ribs)
- Lighten Your Load (avoid carrying heavy items like shopping bags, purses, etc.)
- Exercise Those Arms (slow, controlled motions as you lay on your side)
- Good Posture is Important (this helps to alleviate undue compression on your nerves)
You Can Prevent Bra Strap Syndrome
As mentioned, most women are not wearing the correct bra. Whether it be the wrong size, shape, straps, or other issue, Bra Strap Syndrome is preventable.
Here are just a few of the easy preventative measures you can take to avoid suffering from Bra Strap Syndrome.
Exercise – Regular exercise not only assist with weight management, it can also help your muscles stay loose and limber. Always make sure that you are wearing the right sports bra when exercising!
Measuring – Getting measured or fitted for your bra is essential. If you have never been measured, you are most likely wearing the wrong bra. Take the time to be fitted correctly.
Support – Your bra should offer adequate support. This is especially true in the band and under the breast area. Support coincides with getting measured, so that you wearing not only the appropriate size, but also the right shape to support your breasts.
Straps – Although this has been addressed here repeatedly, the size of the straps on your bra is important. Throw out those old spaghetti strap bras and find ones with wider, more comfortable straps.
Weight – Losing weight has tremendous health benefits as we all know. Another such benefit to help avoid suffering from Bra Strap Syndrome due to being obese. Excess weight is a major contributor, so shedding a few pounds is a great start.
One additional thing to remember is that your bra straps should NOT be fully supporting your breasts.
It is the job of the bra’s band to lift the weight from your breasts. If you find that your straps are still digging in to your shoulders, maybe a smaller band size is needed.
While the effects of Bra Strap Syndrome can be severe, they are easily treatable and even preventable.
Knowing the signs and causes is an excellent first step. Sharing this information with your daughters, mothers, sisters, and friends would be another great measure to combating this syndrome.