UK experts on breast biomechanics said today that some women could be damaging their breasts by wearing the wrong bra, either because they don’t realize it, or because they are too embarassed to wear the right bra for their size and shape.

The research was announced on the website of the University of Portsmouth, where the team, led by Dr Joanna Scurr, a breast biomechanics expert, is based. The announcement did not say if the study is to be published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Wearing the wrong bra can irreparably stretch fragile ligaments and damage the breast, said the researchers from the University’s Department of Sport and Exercise Science.

They tested about 50 types of bra on hundreds of women over the last three years. They found that breasts move up to 21 cm during exercise, and they move not only up and down but also from side to side, yet most bras are only designed to limit vertical movement.

One of the researchers, Wendy Hedger, said:

“Many women have strong preferences for certain styles of bra and won’t buy anything else.”

They won’t even look at anything that doesn’t look like the sort of bra they are used to wearing,” she added.

One example is in the way women choose sports bras. There is a tendency not to have the same type of bra that they normally wear every day, the type that fastens at the back, because they think it should be the type that pulls over the head, like a crop top.

However, Hedger said this is wrong: many sports bras fasten at the back like a traditional bra, and they are very good at supporting the breasts.

“Some women cause breast pain or discomfort by not buying the right sized bra,” said Hedger, explaining that there appears to be a social stigma about certain sizes:

“Many women don’t want to be seen as too small or too big and buy a bra that doesn’t fit well in order to be what they consider to be a normal size.”

Hedger said many women are not aware that they are wearing a bra that does not fit properly, and many are routinely sold ill-fitting bras. Also, “some women forget that their shape and size change and they might have to go through several changes in bra size over their lifetime especially after breastfeeding and the menopause,” said Hedger.

Hedger, Scurr and colleagues have helped to design a new style of sports bra for high impact sports. Scurr is also helping a New Zealand manufacturer overhaul the design of their current high impact bra.

The New Zealand maker went to the Portsmouth team for advice on how to change their bra design so it offered more protection during high impact sports. The researchers tested the current design by measuring breast movement while the bra was being worn, and by asking women how they felt about the fit, shape, and design of the strap, underband, and other parts.

Hedger said they were very excited about seeing the new design:

“It’s the first chance we have had to be involved in the design process of a new bra, though we have tested many over the past few years.”

” We started breast biomechanics research just testing bras but we want to do more research that benefits women,” she added.

The new design is soon to go on sale in Europe, said the researchers in a press statement.

Source: University of Portsmouth.

Written by: Catharine Paddock, PhD