Upper Back, Neck Or Shoulder Pain? Solutions for Large and Heavy Breasts

trapezius pain large breasts plastic surgery brisbane

Having excessively large and heavy breasts has been linked to numerous physical concerns in women. About 1 million females worldwide suffer from problems caused by large breasts.

Most common physical complaints of women having excessively large breasts include:

Back pain

Though the breasts are present in the front part of your body, having a large breast is associated with various degrees of back pain as the back is required to help stabilize the whole upper body. Large breasts have been shown to cause continuous pressure in the muscles of the back- called the trapezius. Larger the breasts, more pressure the muscle is under to keep the breast in position especially while you work or exercise. Also, having a large breast adds few more kilos to your upper body which can cause your back to droop forward. Long-term postural abnormality is shown to cause back pain

Neck and shoulder pain

Your spine helps keep the neck and shoulder properly aligned. Having large heavy breasts causes the spine to droop forward which leads the neck to be extended in an abnormal posture. This abnormal posturing causes soreness in your neck muscles. Poor posture of the neck then puts extra pressure on the muscles and tendons of your shoulder, giving rise to shoulder pain.

Deep Bra Grooves

Deep grooves can also develop on your shoulders.

Development of rashes under the breast

Large breasts can cause the skin around them to fold and rub on itself and as if these areas are difficult to access, infections and rashes may develop here.

In addition to causing physical difficulties having very large breasts may also hamper the quality of your life and may affect your day to day activities.

Can having large breast implants also cause these problems?

Having large implants placed as a part of breast augmentation surgery can lead to similar problems of back and shoulder-neck pain as caused by naturally large breasts. The mechanism of action is similar, as these implants add more weight to the front part of the body which may result in forwarding drooping and abnormal positioning of your back and neck. These complications are however not seen immediately after the surgery but take a few years to develop. You may require physical therapy or implant removal to relieve these symptoms as they can impair mobility and reduce the quality of your life.

What are the non-surgical solutions for large breasts?

Having constant back, shoulder, and neck pain due to large breasts impair quality of life and may cause impaired mobility. It is important to address these problems. The following methods may help:

Diet

Eating a low-calorie balanced diet may help indirectly shrink the adipose tissue (fat), the tissue that makes most parts of your breast, thus reducing its size and reducing complications related to i

Exercise

Exercises that strengthen the upper body and your back may help maintain proper posture and prevent associated complications. It helps reduce pain but doesn’t actually cure it. Also, there are concerns regarding the compliance of women to these exercises. Exercising also helps reduce weight from the breasts and reducing complications associated with it.

Painkiller

Regular use of painkillers may be required to ease back and neck-shoulder discomfort caused by large breasts. However its regular use is not recommended and it also doesn’t treat the cause, rather just provides only symptomatic relief.

The only method that actually helps achieve a permanent cure to the physical problems caused by large heavy breasts is breast reduction surgery.

What is breast reduction surgery?

mid back pain breast reduction

Breast reduction surgery, also known as reduction mammoplasty is a surgical procedure of removing excess fat, breast tissue, and skin from the breast to achieve the desired breast size proportional to your body. It helps ease discomfort associated with large breasts.

The procedure often combines liposuction to remove fat and the breasts are reduced in size and giving women a reduced yet firm and aesthetic looking breast.

Any woman in a state of good physical health desiring to reduce her breast size can undergo the surgery.

What are the benefits of breast reduction surgery?

  • It helps relieve pain caused by having large breasts.
  • It helps give a more firm and aesthetic look to your breasts.
  • It helps improve mobility and quality of life.
  • It helps reduce the incidence of rashes and infection of the breast skin below the breast.
  • It helps reduce the incidence of indentation caused by the straps of your bra.
  • The results of the procedure are long-lasting.
  • Reduced breast size opens a wide range of wardrobe options for you.

Who is an ideal candidate for breast reduction surgery?

You may be an ideal candidate for breast reduction surgery if:

  • You are not satisfied with your large heavy breasts.
  • You have back, shoulder-neck pain caused by large heavy breasts.
  • You have repeated episodes of infection and rashes around the breast skin.
  • Large breast size is limiting your mobility and hampering your day to day activities.
  • You are realistic about the results of the surgery. 

Recent Studies on the Benefits of Breast Reduction

A study conducted on 209 women undergoing breast reduction surgery showed it to be effective in improving the quality of life in women with large breasts. Large breast is associated with chronic neck, shoulder, and back pain along with reduced mobility and quality of life. The results of the study showed marked improvement in the quality of life during follow-up after 3 months and 12 months of the surgery with the help of a questionnaire before and after the surgery.

A literature review of 11 relevant cohort studies done between 2005 to 2015 that focus on the complex interaction between breast hypertrophy and the spine. According to the findings of the research, there is a significant improvement in spinal symptoms and quality of life in women undergoing breast reduction surgery.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

problems caused by large breasts

What are the scars used for breast reduction?

All breast reductions require lifting of the breast and moving the nipple into a higher position. This requires a circular incision around the areola (the circular darker skin surrounding the nipple). At the time of surgery, this incision is made the diameter of the areola can be reduced in size to make the nipples look better and more in proportion on the smaller breast. The nipple stays connected to the underlying breast tissue so the sensation, circulation to the nipple and the nipple remains connected to the breast ducts.  Breastfeeding is still possible.

There is always a vertical scar that runs to the bottom of the breast. The combination of these 2 scars is called a “lollipop” incision. This is Dr Doyle’s preferred technique. If there is a significant reduction in size and the fold under the breast needs to be elevated significantly then a scar is made in the fold under the breast. When this attached to the lollipop scar it is known as an anchor scar. The decision to use an anchor scar is often made at the time of surgery.

Is a breast reduction painful?

The procedure is performed using general anesthetic so you won’t feel pain during the surgery. The pain following a breast reduction is minimal. During and at the end of the procedure Dr Doyle injects long-acting local anaesthetic into the breasts. A support bra is always used and fitted at the end of the procedure. Only mild pain killers are usually required for the first week following the procedure.

What is the recovery after breast reduction?

The procedure is most commonly a day only procedure. You will go home wearing a bra and Dr Doyle will order you mild pain killers and antibiotics. Dr Doyle does not use drains. All sutures are dissolvable and do not need to be removed. You are seen 10 days, 3 weeks and 6 weeks following the procedure for dressing. You dressings are waterproof and you will be able to shower the day after the operation. If your work does not involve heavy lifting you should fine to return to work after 2 weeks.

Can a breast reduction be done just using liposuction?

The answer is usually no. Liposuction is a good technique for removing fat and if your breasts are mainly made of fatty tissue then liposuction will make the breasts smaller. Liposuction is not a good technique for removing breast tissue and as most large breasts have significant amounts of breast tissue present, liposuction will not work. The other problem with liposuction is that it will not lift the nipple and if it does reduce the breast size then the breasts will be smaller but droop more after the procedure.

Do heavy breasts cause back pain?

Though not conclusive, various researchers have shown that having large breasts significantly increases the chance of back pain in women. Women getting implants placed for breast augmentation also show features of back pain.

The possible association between large breast size and back pain is that large breasts and large implants add additional weight to the front part of your body and cause significant pressure in the ligaments and muscles of the back- especially the trapezius which leads to discomfort and back pain. Also, heavyweight in the front part makes the back droop forwards resulting in abnormal posture. Long term abnormalities in posture lead to discomfort and chronic pain.

What problems can large breasts cause?

Though a larger breast is sometimes aesthetically better, having too large breasts can lead to various problems, which include:

Back pain: Though the breasts are present in the front part of your body, having a large breast is associated with various degrees of back pain as the back is required to help stabilize the whole upper body. Large breasts have been shown to cause continuous pressure in the muscles of the back- called the trapezius. Larger the breasts more pressure the muscle is under to keep the breast in position especially while you work or exercise. Also, having a large breast adds few more kilos to your upper body which can cause your back to droop forward. Long-term postural abnormality is shown to cause back pain.

Neck and shoulder pain: Your spine helps keep the neck and shoulder properly aligned. Having large heavy breasts causes the spine to droop forward which leads the neck to be extended in an abnormal posture. This abnormal posturing causes soreness in your neck muscles. Poor posture of the neck then puts extra pressure on the muscles and tendons of your shoulder, giving rise to shoulder pain.

Development of rashes under the breast: Large breasts can cause the skin around them to fold and rub on itself and as if these areas are difficult to access, infections and rashes may develop here. As well as this:

  • Large breasts cause the bra straps to dig into your shoulders causing visible indentations.
  • It impairs the quality of your life.
  • If you are an athlete a large breast may limit your speed, reduce motion, and cause pain during exercising.
  • Having large breasts may limit your wardrobe

What should I do for heavy breasts?

Exercise: Exercises that strengthen the upper body and core strength can help maintain proper posture and prevent drooping or slouching forward. Also exercises help to lose weight, losing weight can help reduce the size of breasts and decrease tension around the neck, shoulders, and back. Exercises should, however, be done regularly and issues regarding compliance may arise. Also, these exercises help reduce symptoms rather than curing the condition.

Diet: Eating a low-calorie balanced diet may help indirectly shrink the adipose tissue, the tissue that makes most parts of your breast, thus reducing its size and reducing complications related to it.

Estrogen: Estrogen is a female hormone that plays a key role in breast tissue development. Some researchers in animal models have found flaxseed to be effective in maintaining estrogen levels by reducing its production from the ovaries. Thus its use may help reduce breast size. Also stopping the intake of hormonal contraceptives can decrease the levels of estrogen.

Painkillers: Regular use of anti-pain medications may be useful to ease back and neck-shoulder discomfort caused by large breasts. However its regular use is not recommended because of its side-effects and it also doesn’t treat the cause, rather provides only symptomatic relief.

Surgery: The only method that helps achieve a permanent cure to the physical problems caused by large heavy breasts is a breast reduction surgery.

Breast reduction surgery is the surgical procedure of reducing the size of your breasts by removing fats and breast tissues which helps achieve long-term relief from problems caused by large breasts.

Celebrities who have undergone breast reduction for large and heavy breasts

The number of celebrities undergoing breast reduction surgeries is on the rise. Few celebrities who have gone under the knife to reduce discomfort and self-consciousness associated with having large breasts:

Drew Barrymore: Famed actress Drew Barrymore underwent breast reduction surgery in 1992 after dealing with chronic back pain for several years. She opted for the surgery to feel more comfortable in her body in addition to addressing the problem of back pain. In an interview, she expressed how she loves her looks now after the breast reduction surgery.

Amber Rose: Actor-model Amber Rose underwent the surgery in 2018 after contemplating the surgery for many years. She underwent the surgery to reduce chronic back pain caused by large breast size. The results following the surgery have been like a dream come true for the star.

Queen Latifah: Rapper and actress Queen Latifah underwent a breast reduction in 2013 following chronic back and shoulder pain which had become unbearable. She tried losing weight to reduce breast size to decrease pain in order to avoid surgery but she did not get any results. Although she got breasts smaller than she was anticipating after the surgery, she was pretty thrilled with the results obtained from the surgery.

Dina Manzo: American TV personality Dina Manzo originally underwent breast augmentation surgery using implants to increase her breast size in the year 2000. She later underwent breast reduction surgery after experiencing chronic back pain and issues related to self-image.

Stassi Schroeder: Another TV personality Stassi Schroeder opted to reduce the size of her large and heavy breasts through surgery after dealing with severe back pain for many years. She also had scabs around her breast line caused due to friction while working out which would bleed. According to her, undergoing the surgery was one of the best life decisions she has taken.

Book a Consultation

If you would like to find out more about the treatment options for large and heavy breasts, book a consultation with Specialist Plastic Surgeon, Dr Mark Doyle.

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About Dr Mark Doyle FRACS (Plast) – Queensland Plastic Surgeon

Servicing patients in Gold Coast, Brisbane, Sunshine Coast, Cairns and New South Wales NSW – Northern Rivers, Byron Bay, Ballina, Lismore and more.

Dr Mark Doyle is a Specialist Plastic Surgeon with over thirty years of experience performing Breast, Body, Face and Nose surgery. As a highly esteemed plastic surgeon, Dr Mark is driven by an intense passion for helping patients achieve a happier, more beautiful self through advanced cosmetic surgery procedures.

He maintains a strong commitment to achieving the best possible results for all his breast, body, face and nose patients, both men and women.

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