Women wearing a poorly fitting bra – and that’s around 85 per cent of us according to researchers at Portsmouth University – could suffer all kinds of aches and pain and related symptoms. Wearing a well-fitting bra is crucial to achieving good support and helping women look and feel their best,” says lead author Dr Jenny White. “And it can help prevent back and neck pain.” Another study, from the British School of Osteopathy, found that badly fitted bras could put stress on bones and muscles, leading to back ache and even breathing problems. Research by the Portsmouth team explains why women who choose their bra size based on the traditional measurement method could be getting it wrong measured 45 women using both the traditional method and the ‘best fit’ approach, which uses five criteria: the under-band, the cup, the underwire, the straps and front band. The traditional method was found to produce a bad fit in several areas: band size was too wide in 76% of women, and cup size was too small in 84%, by one cup size. A well-fitting bra is all the more important for large-breasted women as they carry more weight and so are more likely to suffer with shoulder, neck or back ache, and interestingly, the study found that larger-breasted women were more likely to see a greater discrepancy between the two methods. In some cases, the difference between the correct fit and that recommended by the traditional measuring method was as much as three sizes. The measuring method may not be as accurate because it can differ depending on how a woman is breathing at the time, as well as her posture. Then there are differences between different brands of bra in terms of how big a specific cup size and measurement actually is on the bra itself.
Check your fit
Band: does it feel too tight or is there is flesh bulging over the top? Or is it too loose, so that the bra lifts when your arms are raised? Cup: are there wrinkles in the cup fabric? Or is breast tissue bulging out of it? Underwire: is the wire sitting on breast tissue, or does it feel uncomfortable? Straps: do they dig in, feel uncomfortable or do they carry too much of the breast weight? Or do they slide off shoulder? Front band: is it in contact with your sternum? (It should be.) A bra is considered a good fit if there are none of these problems or the bra can be adjusted to correct them.