If you've felt skin irritation and back pain at the end of a long day, you might want to get your brassiere checked. There's no denying that the bra can, more often than not be more than a tad uncomfortable to wear. Recently, lingerie website Zivame.com, that offers over 50 brands in India, decided to explore why. They asked their experts from a physical fitting lounge in Bangalore and discovered that every four out of five women in India wore bras of the wrong size that eventually lead to a multitude of problems and discomfort. They then launched a ‘Fit Is My Right’ campaign across the city of Mumbai to target and spread awareness amongst college women about the importance of wearing the right bra by opening a mobile fitting lounge.
After surveying over 1,400 women in three months, they found that these were the most common bra-related ailments afflicting Indian women — and that most of them were caused by wearing the wrong type of bra:
Skin irritation: Zivame's survey showed that 17 per cent of the women surveyed suffered from rashes and other breakouts because of their bras. “Frictional dermatitis is one of the biggest causes of dark patches under the breasts,” says Dr Apratim Goel, cosmetic dermatologist and laser surgeon, Cutis Skin Studio, Mumbai. “Rashes underneath the breast fold develop due to allergies to the material of the bra (especially synthetic or lace material) or because of fungal infection due to excess sweating, especially. On healing, these leave dark patches. Richa Kar, Founder and CEO of Zivame.com agrees saying that a lack of air circulation and excessive sweating is caused by careless bra selections, and bad usage of fabric.
Constant pain from underwires: "The underwire from my bra pokes me from under the breast, so I end up wearing a cross-heart version, even though I feel wearing an underwired bra supports my chest better," says 22-year-old Srishti Ahuja. Unfortunately she is not the only one who is subject to the constant 'poke'. According to Zivame, 36 per cent of the women in the survey mentioned that they experienced pain caused by the infamous underwire. The survey also found that the major reason for this issue was wearing a smaller bra. Dr Gandhali Deorukhkar, OBGYN consultant with a fellowship in endoscopic surgery, Wockhardt hospital, Mumbai Central also claims that 80 per cent of women wear incorrectly sized bras – 70 per cent wear bras that are too small, and 10 per cent wear bras that are too large. "A smaller bra means the wire is lying on or poking into the breast tissue, instead of hugging the rib cage," says Aparna Walters, the head of design and technical lingerie and nightwear for Enamour.
Restricted breathing: ”There are times when I feel my bra is choking me,” says Delhi-based entrepreneur Nicky Singh. “I have had to head to the loo and unclasp it to breathe easier. Dr Goel explains why: Wearing a very tight bra causes external compression of respiratory muscles and rib cage expansion. It also causes the middle portion of the ribs to remain inactive due to resistance from bra and hence overworks the upper portion, “ she says, adding that a tight bra can also cause digestive problems due to the compression of the neuro-lymphatic plexus (on the left side near the diaphragm).
Incorrect posture: A badly-fitted bra providing insufficient support causes the trapezius muscle to tighten, to take up the weight of the breasts. This can lead to shoulder, neck and back pain because this muscle is being constantly strained says Amelia Bandlish, a bespoke bra-fitting expert who resides in Delhi. Nancy Rustagi, a Zumba fitness trainer can relate: When dancing, I need to wear tight bras, which at times stress out my shoulders and my back." After a visit to La Senza, Rustagi was shocked to discover that the bras causing her neck pain were of a completely different size, and chucked them all out. She also discovered that bras should be replaced every four- six months, something Dr Deorukhar also recommends. “Monthly fluctuations of estrogen and progesterone are responsible for changes in breast size and tenderness. Women should ideally use bras of different sizes throughout their monthly cycle.” Dr Goel says regular usage causes certain bras to change or lose their shape, and a change is required to promote personal hygiene as well.
That said, completely discarding one doesn’t exactly help: “Apart from developing sagging, shapeless breasts, not wearing a bra can lead to back pain and shoulder pain in cases of heavy breasted people,” says Dr Goel, who also clears the air about a popular bra myth that’s doing the rounds: there is a growing concern in media that relates ill-fitting bras to the increased incidence of breast cancer. This is due to the blockage of lymphatic of breast and accumulation of toxins that drain breasts. However since the lymphatic flow is towards the armpit this is unlikely,” she concludes.