A bra is one of the smallest pieces of clothing you have to wear but it’s the one likely to cause you the greatest headache when it doesn’t fit.
And it’s unbelievable that up to 80% of women around the world always get it wrong with bra size.
There is enough evidence to prove that wearing a bra that is too tight whether in the straps, band, or cups can cause a horde of problems. These include inflammation, infection, and pain in the shoulders, neck, back, breasts, chest, and even the spine.
So yes, a tight bra can cause chest pain.
Reasons why your bra might be too tight
If you wear a bra whose band is a size smaller than your bust, the bra is definitely going to squeeze your underbust and the back.
The band length is the difference in length between the bustline and the under-bust, measured when a woman is standing upright. See a guide on how to determine your bra size here. If the bra cups are smaller than your breasts, they will put excessive pressure on your boobs, leading to soreness, side spillage, and even pain.
How to know if your bra is too tight
1. The bra keeps on shifting position
A bra that is too tight will uncomfortably ride up your back as you move, and you have to repeatedly adjust the band or the straps.
2. The band pulls upwards at the back
If the bra band rides up your back when you hook it up, this could mean that the band is too loose while the straps are too tight. For the correctly sized bra, the chest band snuggly fits without digging into the chest or sliding and remains parallel to the ground without riding up. However, if you experience bulging of your back fat, then it means that the band is too tight.
3. Breast side spillage and chest pain
Cups that are too tight for your boobs will cause the breast tissue to spill from the sides, or even from the top and bottom of the bra cups, creating ‘double boobs’. If you feel discomfort in the cups or pain along an underwire that is digging in, then the bra cups are a size smaller. Can a tight bra cut off circulation? The bra band and underwire can exert undue pressure on the pectoral muscles (chest muscles) leading to chest pain and blood circulation problems.
If the bra fits right, then its center gore should rest on your breastbone and the underwire should be aligned with your breast tissue.
4. Skin irritation, soreness, or infections
The rubbing and digging of a tight bra can cause excessive sweating, heat rash, chafing, bruised skin, and pain. This can even lead to a myriad of skin issues such as bacteria and fungi penetrating the injured skin to cause infections.
5. Back and shoulder pain
Tight bra band and straps will cinch and hurt your back and shoulders respectively. They can also strain your trapezius muscles, a pair of triangular muscles that extends over the back of the neck and shoulders to connect them and enable their movement. Excessive bra pressure on this muscle can spread pain to the shoulders, back, neck, and the chest.
On the other hand, if you have heavy breasts, a loose unsupportive bra will cause your breasts to sag, leading to back and shoulder strain or pain. This worsens if the straps have been tightened in order to compensate for a loose band. If you’re already experiencing shoulder pain, discover the most supportive bras for relieving the pain here.
How to fix a tight bra
1. Use the next set of hooks
If the bra still has an outer set of hook and eye closures, shift to them so that you can create more breathing space.
2. Use a bra extender
If your bra is already tight at the last set of hooks but you’re not ready to upgrade it, don’t worry about it.
A bra extender enables you to increase the size range of your bra so that you can still wear it during those periods when you bump up, such as during and after pregnancy.
3. Loosen the straps
Here is a fact:
At least 80% of a bra’s support should come from the band and only 10% to 20% support should come from the straps. Tight straps will dig into your skin and force your shoulders to slouch forward.
You should therefore let the straps fit less tightly than the band.
4. Take regular bra size measurements
Your breast size changes every couple of months due to factors such as weight gain or weight loss, hormonal swings, and pregnancy. So your favorite bra may become tighter or looser three months down the line.
Lingerie experts recommend that you should get your bra fitted at least twice a year.