Throughout history, whenever women required support for their breasts, they put on some kind of bra. Today, the ubiquitous bra has evolved from its rudimentary function of breast supporter to being a form of clothing to improve a woman’s appearance. It has even been condemned by feminists as a type of female oppression. In the face of such controversy and superficial use, it is important to note the various health issues that come along with wearing the bra.
It is generally accepted that a woman should wear a bra for the sake of modesty as well as to restrict the breasts. The demands of the modern woman require her to perform a varied range of physical movements, and this is especially so for women who engage in sports or any other form of intense field work. The strenuous activities that can result in uncontrolled movement of the breasts when a bra is not worn can cause discomfort and pain, known as mastodynia.
Bras are also a way of life for women. Many opt to wear bras, as they feel it will conform to appropriate societal norms and improve their physical appearance. A bra can be a boost of confidence for women, translating to a greater sense of satisfaction and happiness. The alternative of wearing no bra is risking derision and scorn for deviating from what is considered to be the socially approved behavior, leading to mental stress and embarrassment.
It does seem that the wearing of a brassiere benefits both physical and mental health; however, there has been a growing number of opposing views and people who want to prove that not all is as it appears to be.
Contrary to popular belief, the bra is now increasingly being thought of as the culprit for causing bodily harm to women. The design of the bra is such that the weight of the breasts is taken off the chest and placed on the shoulders. By itself, this does not present any real issue. However, what exacerbates matters is the fact that statistics show 8 out of 10 women do not choose the right bra size. Tight fitting bras result in numbness, headaches or neck pain as excessive pressure is placed on the nerves along the shoulder.
One study found that a specially chosen group of women who suffered from back pains and did not wear bras during the study duration indicated improvement in their conditions. Up to 80% of those women chose to continue not wearing bras. In light of these findings, one has to wonder why so many women continue to succumb to the pressure to wear a bra.
Maybe it is because societal pressures on women have led to the association of the brassiere with superficial appearances. A good majority of women who choose to wear a bra want to preserve their modesty, while at the same time, ironically, to increase their sexual appeal. Complementing that fact are bra-producing companies that rampantly advertise their products, featuring shapely young models, that may over a period of time make the average woman feel insecure about herself for not owning one of their ‘wonder’ bras.
These companies neglect to inform women about the health issues that may arise from the use of their products. As companies tend to be profit-driven, the welfare of customers has a low priority.
Although there is no general direct connection between the bra and cancer, poorly fitting bras can result in a higher risk of cancerous growth in breasts. Tight bras restrict the flow of lymphatic fluid in and out of the breasts. This means that carcinogenic elements in the breasts that are usually expunged through the lymphatic fluids instead end up being accumulated and develop into cancers.
Greater efforts are needed to educate both women and men about these health aspects of wearing a bra.
For women who choose to wear a brassiere, the correct fit is highly important. When the bra is properly fitted, some of the problems associated with bra wearing are eliminated.
As with anything in this world, the usage of brassieres should be moderated to the point where it will not cause harm to the wearer, either physically or psychologically. It would seem that the complete elimination of bras would bring about the greatest health benefit. However, such an extreme measure is possible only with the desexualization of women’s breasts, which is nearly impossible, as it is deeply ingrained in society’s collective psyche.
Society will thus have to settle for a suitable balance between health and the sexual appeal of the bra. An ideal resolution would be that all women make informed choices about why they want to wear a bra and not simply submit themselves to societal pressures.