Neural Impingement caused by Sports Bra straps

When fitting any bra one of the more important things to get right is strap tension, that is how firmly the strap sits over the shoulder. This is particularly important with a Sports Bra fitting, and even more so for those blessed with a bigger chest.

As mentioned in my post ‘The Truth about underwire’, the straps are only a secondary means of support. 82% of support comes from the bra band that runs around the rib cage. Hence there is no functional advantage to having your bra straps sitting too tightly.

Shoulder indentations and subsequent neural impingement is a problem that bigger busted women commonly run in to caused by unrelenting tightly fitted straps. In most cases this long term ‘shoulder abuse’ is committed in an attempt to make up for the lack of support supplied by the bra band. Naturally, the worst perpetrator being the spaghetti strap bra. Old, worn out bras whose materials have lost the ability to give and sit snugly against the body are also common offenders.

When the trapezius muscle, which lies directly under the bra straps is compressed downwards, the nerves that run under it can become impinged. This can cause numbing, tingling, shooting and burning sensations around the shoulder and radiating down the arm to the hand. There are of course various severities of this pathology, and symptoms will range from persisting only when in ill fitted lingerie to constant discomfort even with the removal of the stressor (bra straps).

Functional Sports Bras are almost always made with wide soft straps that are designed to eliminate this problem by dispersing pressure more widely across the shoulder.

For those choosing to wear two bras, it is extremely important to avoid having the straps lie one over another. For this reason coupling a racer back together with U shaped straps (regular fit) often works best. Again, both of these options should have wide soft straps.

There are a number of practitioners who will be able to assist with nerve impingements. This includes your GP, Physiotherapist, Osteopath, Chiropractor & Remedial Massage Therapist. Treatment generally consists of a number of conservative therapies which may include bra prescription (often strapless is advised for a period), soft tissue therapy, stretch/strengthening programs, anti-inflammatories and possible steroid injections. As with any stress related musculoskeletal injury removing the pathology is one step of the process, but eliminating the causative stressor is just as important and not to be overlooked during treatment.

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