Background: Menopause would seem to exist as a period of accelerated changes for women and their upper torso mechanics. Whether these anthropometric changes reflect changes in pain states remains unclear. Plausible mechanisms of pain exist for the independent and combined effect of increasing breast size and thoracic kyphosis. Bra fit has the potential to change when the anthropometric measures (chest circumference and bust circumference) used to determine bra size change, such as postmenopausally. Identifying an association between breast size, thoracic kyphosis and thoracic spine pain in postmenopausal women and identifying the relevance of bra fit to this association may be of importance to the future management and education of post-menopausal women presenting clinically with thoracic spine pain.
Methods: A cross-sectional study design. Fifty-one postmenopausal bra-wearing women were recruited. Measures included breast size (Triumph International), thoracic kyphosis (flexible curve), bra fitted (Y/N) and pain (Short Form McGill Pain Questionnaire) and tenderness on palpation (posteroanterior pressure testing). These measures were collected in one session at a physiotherapy clinic.
Results: The majority of the women in this study were overweight or obese and wearing an incorrect sized bra. Pain was significantly related to breast size, body weight and BMI at mid thoracic levels (T7-8). In contrast self-reported thoracic pain was not correlated with age or index of kyphosis (thoracic kyphosis). Women with thoracic pain were no more likely to have their bra professionally fitted whereas women with a higher BMI and larger breasts were more likely to have their bra professionally fitted.
Conclusion: The findings of this study show that larger breasts and increased BMI are associated with thoracic pain in postmenopausal women. This is unrelated to thoracic kyphosis. Increasing breast size and how a bra is worn may have biomechanical implications for the loaded thoracic spine and surrounding musculature. Post-menopause women present with a spectrum of anthropometrical changes that have the potential to contribute to altered biomechanics and affect pain states in the thoracic spine.
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