Why an ill-fitting bra could be bad for your health

Why an ill-fitting bra could be bad for your health

Taking off your bra after a long day is considered by many women as one of the best feelings in the world; an act of relaxation akin to a bubble bath or a glass of wine.

But what does it say about the comfort and fit of our bras that so many of us can’t wait to take them off?

Maxine Windram, director of Brava Lingerie, said that “many women have gotten used to uncomfortable bras, and think that’s just how it is, but it doesn’t have to be.”

A correctly fitted bra should feel supportive and comfortable, and not give you the urge to fling it off the moment you get home.

Windram suggests women get a bra fit check every 12 months, as an ill-fitting bra is not only a nuisance, it can actually be harmful to your health.

Here’s how an ill-fitting bra could be affecting your health:


When breastfeeding, milk ducts carry milk from deep within the breast to the nipples. Bras with tight, rigid underwire can inhibit the flow and lead to a blocked duct.

This blockage can then lead to mastitis, or painful inflammation of the breast tissue.

Postural problems

A common issue Windram sees among her clientele is women wearing bras where the cup size is too small and the band is too big. Most bra bands start at a size 10, however slim women with a bigger bust may need a smaller band and a larger cup size.

“When the band is too loose, it rides up on the back, causing the weight of the breasts to drag the shoulders forward,” Windram said.

This can cause back pain and other postural complications.

Nerve pain and damage

Bra straps that are too tight can dig into the shoulders and press down on the collarbone area.

This compresses the space between the clavicle and the first rib, where a bundle of nerves named the brachial complex is located.

Overly tight straps can put pressure on these nerves, causing nerve pain and weakness in the neck, shoulder and arm.

Chafing and stretch marks

About 70% of Australian women experience breast discomfort during physical activity, highlighting the importance of a supportive sports bra. Even smaller-busted women can experience painful chafing if their sports bra is too loose, as the bra moves and creates friction against the skin during physical activity.

“Whether you’re a B-cup or a K-cup, if you don’t wear a supportive sports bra you will experience sag, pain, chafing and possibly stretch marks,” said Windram.

Exercise avoidance

Vigorous exercise and unsupported breasts are not a fun combination. Some women report avoiding exercise due to breast pain or feeling self-conscious about their breasts bouncing during physical activity.

Being physically inactive can lead to a wide range of health concerns, including low bone density, cardiovascular diseases and type II diabetes mellitus.

Exercise is also a great stress reliever, and with the right support, it should be comfortable and enjoyable at any cup size.

Negative self-image

Many women come to Windram for a fitting feeling negatively about their breasts, which she attributes to unrealistic expectations of what women’s bodies and breasts actually look like.

“Women will compare themselves to others, and start to feel bad about how their body looks because it isn’t like what we see in the media,” she said.

Wearing the wrong bra can be unflattering and contribute to this negative self-image, while a correctly fitted bra can make a huge difference to how a woman looks and feels.

“We have women writing to us, telling us we’ve changed their lives, how they feel about themselves and how their clothes look on them. We have women who weren’t active before who are now confident to play sport. We sometimes get tears of happiness in the changing room because they feel so much better,” Windram said.

Emma Lennon

Emma Lennon


Emma Lennon is a passionate writer, editor and community development professional. With over ten years’ experience in the disability, health and advocacy sectors, Emma is dedicated to creating work that highlights important social issues.