Having large breasts may contribute to upper back pain. It can also worsen existing issues with back pain.

General back pain affects about 39% of the adult population in the United States, according to data from 2019. A person may experience a dull ache in their upper back muscles or a sharp, stabbing pain.

Common causes of upper back pain include injury or problems with posture. Many people associate having large breasts with back pain. However, scientific evidence suggests this may also be due to additional factors other than just the size of a person’s breasts.

This article reviews what research says about breast size and upper back pain. It also lists tips for alleviating upper back pain due to large breast size.

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

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Having large breasts may cause or worsen upper back pain.

The main reason for this may be posture changes associated with having larger breasts, which can strain the back muscles.

Research findings

Several studies suggest a correlation between large breast size and upper back pain. However, other factors, including poorly fitting bras or obesity, may also play a role.

In a 2020 study, researchers examined how breast size in people over the age of 40 affected various aspects of their health and well-being. They found a positive correlation between large breasts and reports of upper back pain. They also noted that for each increase in breast size score, people were 13% more likely to report upper back pain.

A study from 2013 examined upper back pain in postmenopausal females. Some of the participants had obesity or overweight, and some wore incorrect bra sizes.

They found that those with larger breasts had a higher chance of experiencing upper back pain. However, they noted that obesity and wearing the wrong bra size can also impact pain levels.

A 2022 study examining the relationship between upper back pain and breast size found that breast size did not affect upper back pain severity, despite the researchers expecting to find that it did. However, increased local tissue sensitivity did affect pain severity. In other words, other factors may worsen or cause upper back pain independent of large breast size.

These studies suggest that while breast size may play a role in a person experiencing upper back pain, other factors are also generally present.

Wearing the wrong bra size may impact upper back pain.

In a 2012 study, researchers found that breast size did not impact the presence of shoulder and neck pain. However, bra cup size affected the number of people who reported pain.

It is important to note the limitations of this study, however. It only involved a small group of participants with self-reported symptoms, cup size, and bra size. It did not take into account the weight of a person’s breasts, and the researchers did not perform any imaging studies.

Having a professional fit their bra may help a person wear the correct size. This can reduce the strain that the weight of large breasts may put on the upper back, potentially reducing pain.

Age may be a contributing factor to breast size-related back pain. This may relate to the fact that breasts typically get bigger as people age.

Studies from 2020 and 2013 involving females who were over 40 years old or postmenopausal suggest that breast size may influence pain. However, other factors, such as obesity or wearing poor-fitting bras, may have more of an influence on upper back pain.

Treatment of upper back pain related to breast size can include wearing custom-fitted bras, taking medication, having physical therapy, or undergoing surgery.

Customized bras

Evidence suggests poorly fitting bras may contribute to upper back pain. A person may benefit from having a custom-fit bra or visiting a professional for a bra fitting to ensure they wear the correct style and size to give them the most support.


A person may find that taking over-the-counter (OTC) nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may help with upper back pain. Medicated creams or hot or cold patches may also help relieve pain.

If OTC medications do not help, a person may want to speak with a healthcare professional about alternative medications or treatments.

Exercise and physical therapy

Exercise can help improve strength and posture in the back, neck, and shoulders. This may help alleviate upper back pain.

The Arthritis Foundation recommends several different exercises and stretches for back pain, including:

  • the reverse fly with resistance bands
  • rows with weights or resistance bands
  • superman trunk raises
  • side stretches

A physical therapist can work with a person to show them specific exercises that may be the most beneficial for their needs.

It is important for people to start slowly. It is also best to talk with a healthcare professional before beginning a new exercise program or routine.

Breast reduction surgery

Breast reduction surgery removes breast tissue, fat, and skin from around the breasts.

In addition to potentially offering some relief from back pain associated with heavier breasts, other possible benefits of reduction surgery may include:

  • an improved self-image
  • an increased ability to work out without pain
  • bra straps no longer digging into the skin
  • easier breathing
  • reduced skin irritation around the breasts
  • more ease in finding clothes that fit well

A person will need to consult with a plastic surgeon to have breast reduction surgery.

The following section answers common questions about the relationship between large breasts and upper back pain.

How do I know if my breasts are causing my back pain?

A person concerned that their back pain may be related to the size of their breasts can talk with a doctor about their pain.

The doctor can review the person’s symptoms, perform a physical examination, or order tests to determine the underlying cause.

What does back pain from large breasts feel like?

Upper back pain can feel like:

  • a dull ache
  • a sharp pain
  • a throbbing pain that does not go away

How it presents will depend on how the breasts are affecting the back and whether other underlying conditions are present, such as an injury.

Large breasts may contribute to upper back pain due to their effect on a person’s posture. Other factors may include age, obesity, overweight, or improper bra size.

People may find they can manage pain with OTC medications, proper fitting bras, or exercise. Others may want to consider breast reduction surgery.

It may be best for individuals with chronic upper back pain to speak with a healthcare professional about potential underlying causes and ways to manage the pain.