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Women’s Spinal Health- Part II

Optimize your posture

Women’s spinal health is an important topic that we need to address. In part I of this blog we touched on health risks with high heels and handbags and tips to keep your posture optimal. Our posture and spinal health play a supportive role for our bodies – at rest and in motion. Here are a few more health tips around some commonly seen.

Back pain is a common problem among women and men, affecting up to 80% of people at least once in their lifetime. Low back pain (LBP) in Ontario costs an estimated $6-12 billion dollars a year! LBP, other musculoskeletal (MSK) issues and neck pain are the 3 of the leading causes of disability in North America. Back and neck pain can lead to poor posture and significant loss of function. These spine issues result in individuals being unable to complete their normal daily activities including work.

MSK issues in women:

3) Bra Baggage

Did you know that the majority of women wear the wrong size bra? This stat isn’t just uncomfortable; it also has major health implications.

Chiropractors see the unfortunate consequences of ill-fitting bras all too often in their female patients.
  • Badly fitted bras that offer limited or no support can create visible problems in posture, resulting in pain and tension. This means the neck and upper back muscles have to work harder to support the weight of the breasts, which can lead to headaches.
  • Overly tight straps cause skin irritations but reduce blood flow, pinch nerves and lead to tension headaches.
  • A bra that is too tight restricts movement in the upper back, causing postural stress, stiffness and in the spine and can limit ribcage function.

It’s one thing to describe how a bra should fit, but in the end, you will be the one making the investment and wearing it.

Spend your time and money wisely with these important bra-shopping tips:
  • Get properly fitted– over the course of her lifetime a woman can wear multiple different bra sizes due to factors like birth control, pregnancy, breast-feeding and weight fluctuations. It’s important to check your bra size every year and make changes if necessary.
  • Sports bras are essential for all women – especially those with a C-cup and above. If you’re looking for a high-impact sports bra, the jump test of 10 jumping jacks in a sports bra is a quick test of its support.
  • Bra styles and brands vary – When trying on bras, wear them for about five minutes to assess comfort and fit. Also, try a shirt over top to see how the bra looks with clothing.
  • The band test – when trying on a new bra, it should feel snug on the first row of eyes. This allows you to tighten the bra as it stretches with wear and washing. Try to avoid buying a bra where the best fit is the bra’s tightest setting.
  • The movement test – lift your arms up, bend down and jump to see if the bra and breasts stay in place. If you get a lot of flesh wiggle along the top of your bra cups, your cup size could be too small.
  • The sit test – We spend a large amount of time sitting at work and your bra should still be comfortable in this position. If your bra is uncomfortable sitting, look for a bra style where there is an arched center panel – this gives the top of your tummy more room.
The Stoop, Swoop & Scoop Test:

To make sure you have the right size bra; you need to be sure you are “in” your bra. This test is especially important for D cup sizes and larger. You shouldn’t see any breast spillage over your cup after this test. If you do, you need to go up one or maybe even 2 more cup sizes.

  • Stoop or lean forward from the waist and let your breasts drop into the cups.
  • Swoop – With the opposite hand, you gently bring your breast tissue forward from under your arms to make sure all your breast tissue is in your bra’s cups.
  • Scoop your breast tissue up and into the underwire from under your bra band.

Bras should work for us, not the other way around. The right bra should provide adequate support, feel comfortable and move with you.

4) Posture and Women’s Spinal Health

Good posture not only makes you look better, but it also delivers increased energy, better breathing, improved circulation, and less wear-and-tear on your spine and joints. It’s an investment in both your appearance and your health.

The secret to good posture is maintaining the spine’s natural curves. If your spine is not properly aligned, your muscles and ligaments have to work harder to keep you upright and this can result in strain and pain.

When you slouch, you also put pressure on your lungs and stomach. This can affect breathing and digestion, as well as blood flow.

Does your posture pass the test?

Use a three-way mirror or have a friend help you check out these markers:

  • When standing: your head, shoulders, hips and ankles should line up, one comfortably above the other. Your knees should be slightly bent and your feet should be shoulder-width apart or more.
  • When looking at your back: are your shoulders and hips level, or is one side higher than the other? Does your head tilt to one side or the other? Does one shoulder blade seem to be more prominent than the other? Do the muscles of the back seem more developed on one side, compared to the other? A healthy back should be symmetrical.
  • When looking from the side: your neck and low back should curve to the front of your body, and your mid-back and pelvis should curve to the back. Postural distortions in the curves of your spine mean stress and strain on your back.
Tips for Standing Tall
  • If you use a bag or briefcase with a single shoulder strap, choose a strap that is long enough to place over your head and rest on the opposite side of the bag. This helps distribute the weight of the bag evenly and prevents distorting your posture.
  • High heels throw your spine out of alignment, making good posture difficult and often leading to low back pain. A low-heeled, supportive shoe is best, but if you are devoted to your fashion footwear, try to restrict the height to no more than two inches.
  • Try not to sit in any one position for a long period of time. Take a quick stretch break or change positions every 30-45 minutes. For a quick and easy spinal stretch, stand up and raise your arms above your head.
  • Strengthening your core back and abdominal muscles will help promote good posture by keeping your spine well supported.

Chiropractors are spine specialists and experts in dealing with MSK conditions, and back and neck pain. If you are concerned about your posture, have pain and discomfort or have questions on how to better your posture, book your appointment today at our CURAVITA byward clinic or our CURAVITA Glebe clinic!