A recent task force has determined that women are at higher risk for developing neck pain than men. What accounts for this gender difference? A number of factors contribute to neck pain including coping skills, personalities, work environments and physical activities. But, as a patient eloquently stated while lifting her shirt, "What about these?" Are breasts a major contributor to the higher incidence of neck pain in women? In 1996, our judicial system examined the evidence and determined (Bancroft v Tecumseh Products) that breast reduction surgery was indeed medically necessary to relieve headache, neck pain and shoulder pain. This verdict establishes the cause and effect relationship between breasts and neck pain.
A closer examination into the breast risk factor can illuminate a multitude of reasons why size A, B, C, D, or DD really matters to the spine. Let's think in terms of triple "B's".
Are your breasts big, small, not at all (absent) or just right? How you feel about your breasts can affect your posture in a negative or a positive way. If you like your breasts, your posture might be confident and the spine well aligned with your chest out; then, the girls are front and center. If you hate your breasts, your posture might be shy and slumped with your chest sunken behind the shoulders; then, the girls are hidden from world. This shy posture with the shoulders rounded forward causes the neck and head to thrust forward like a turtle. This turtle-like posture strains the neck.
Recently, a spine specialist from the Mayo Clinic told me about an unfortunate young woman who did not develop breasts because of cancer. At the age of 30, she treated herself to breast implants. To this surgeon's amazement, his patient's posture greatly improved after she had the implants. He admitted to underestimating the impact that the lack of breasts had on this woman's attitude and her posture. Now, her posture is erect and confident instead of shy and slumped.
Nothing is better for the spine than a good healthy dose of self-assuredness and self-confidence. Having breasts is an emotional experience for many women.
How big is your bust size? Well, if your breasts are too big, neck pain may be in your future. Try strapping on two five pound sacks of sugar all day. That task is tiresome just to think about. The excessive forward, chest weight throws the spine out of balance as the chest is drawn forward towards the knees. This slouched posture eventually fatigues the muscles and painfully stretches the ligaments of the neck, shoulders and mid-back. Reduction of breast weight (breast reduction surgery) is a well recognized treatment of neck pain because it restores proper alignment. In turn, if you are thinking about an upgrade to a larger size, think again because that mistake may give you a pain in the neck.
A woman came to me with neck pain a few years ago. Originally, she thought that her neck pain was a work injury, but further investigation revealed that she had breast augmentation surgery a few years prior to developing pain. In fact, the plastic surgeon warned her against such a large size. She admitted to me, "These (pointing to her breasts) were a huge mistake." Guess who is going to pay for the breast reduction surgery in this afflicted woman?