Spine Universe: Breasts and Back Pain

One of the greatest sources of discomfort for women with large breasts is chronic back pain. 

But it doesn’t stop there. Women may also suffer from neck and shoulder pain, pinched nerves, misaligned posture, and emotional distress. The weight of large breasts forces the body to adopt unnatural postures. Bearing these extra pounds further strains joints and nerves. 

Back pain can be an excruciating condition. But luckily, women suffering from this symptom can benefit greatly from a breast reduction, or reduction mammaplasty.

As one of the country’s leading breast reconstruction surgeons, Dr. Michael Howard has performed several hundred breast reduction surgeries and notes that back pain is a universal symptom endured by women with large chests. In a recent article in the online publication Spine Universe, Dr. Howard was interviewed about this very condition, and the life-changing effects his patients enjoy after a breast reduction surgery. If you’re struggling with back pain as the result of a burdensome chest, relief is in sight. Call (224) 271-4250 to schedule a personal consultation. Dr. Howard serves the greater Chicago area with offices conveniently located in Lake Forest, Chicago, and Glenview.

How Breasts Cause Back Pain

Women who have grown accustomed to the size of their chest over the course of their adult life may not realize that it’s their cup size to blame for seemingly unrelated aches and pains. However, this is not at all a rare affliction, and was recently discussed by leading physicians in the article Breasts and Your Back: Why Breast Size Can Affect Back Pain. In fact, Dr. Michael Howard cites back pain as “universally common to women with large breasts.”  (1)

Scientists and thinkers like Aristotle, Galileo, and Da Vinci were fascinated by the way that mass and weight dictates how we move throughout the world, a field we now know as biomechanics. Biomechanics examines how the structures of the human body affect movement. 

Doctors and researchers studying biomechanics study movement patterns, body structure, and how it impacts the joints in order to determine the best course of treatment and injury prevention. (2)

breast reduction

In Breasts and Your Back: Why Breast Size Can Affect Back Pain, Dr. Peter G. Whang, MD, FACS, FAAOS, points to biomechanics when understanding how breast hypertrophy, or large breasts cause backpain. “It certainly makes sense.” 

Our bodies are constantly making tiny movements and involuntary adjustments to keep us upright. Our backs (and the rest of the muscles and nerves that are connected) are happy and healthy when we can achieve a neutral and relaxed position. Proper alignment and weight distribution in the body allow us to use as little energy as possible to remain agile. Unfortunately, for women with breast hypertrophy, this aspect of their physique affects their every movement.

Supporting heavy breasts and combating the constant pull of gravity to remain centered takes its toll on the rest of the body. Bone and muscular systems are forced to assume stresses that they are simply not designed to do. The entire upper body pitches in to compensate and balance the body.

Finding Balance

As we work to achieve balance, we are also constantly working against the force of gravity, which is quite literally, trying to get us down!

The body is often compared to an inverted pendulum, making tiny movements over our ankles to keep the bulk of our weight centered over these rather small supportive bases. (3)

But when excess weight is located on the front of the body, as it is with overly large breasts, it becomes a constant struggle to remain balanced. Many women may not realize the battle that their bodies undergo to achieve this- they just know they’re in pain. 

Heavy Lifting

The weight of large breasts and the sheer force of gravity are at the root of this back pain. Over the course of his career as a plastic surgeon and microsurgical breast reconstruction expert, Dr. Michael Howard has observed patients who have breasts weighing several pounds each. (1)

That’s a lot of extra weight pulling a woman forward. Dr. Howard explains that the body responds by pulling backward to compensate for gravity’s pull forward and compares this reaction to a teeter-totter. 

This can negatively impact a woman’s posture, causing her spine to curve forward, and the rest of the muscles in her back to strain in response. Talk about a pain in the neck: this downward force also affects the muscles in the shoulders and puts undue pressure on several nerves in the upper part of the spinal column.  (3) 

Breast Reductions Offer Relief

And while Dr. Sheri Dewan allows that conservative approaches like physical therapy can improve a woman’s comfort, this is not always an adequate solution for the back pain that accompanies breast hypertrophy. In these cases, the most effective and permanent solution is a breast reduction.

Dr. Howard has seen hundreds of patients struggle with the symptoms that large breasts cause. But he explains that after he performs their breast reductions, the “vast majority of patients” see an improvement in their symptoms. (1) If you’re exhausted from the daily discomfort and relentless pain that your bust is causing, a breast reduction surgery may be right for you. Schedule a personal consultation with Dr. Howard. In this case, having a lot to lose is a good thing! Call (224) 271-4250 to speak with one of our helpful representatives.

Personal Consultation in Chicago

breast reduction

Dr. Howard believes that the most important part of a breast procedure begins with meeting each patient. It’s his chance to learn more about the patient, understand their concerns, and make sure that they have the expectations necessary for a successful outcome. If you’re struggling with hypertrophic breasts that are causing you discomfort, your personal consultation will be the first step towards a more comfortable and rewarding life. 

After a friendly but frank discussion and an examination, Dr. Howard will be able to discuss your options for breast surgery, and whether a breast reduction would prove a worthwhile solution. If you are a good candidate for this procedure, he’ll create a personalized treatment plan. You’ll be given all the information you need to feel confident about your decision, and prepare for your breast reduction. 


Breast reduction surgeries are outpatient procedures and performed under general anesthesia. Prior to your surgery, Dr. Howard will explain the incision pattern that will allow him to remove the excess breast tissue for a lighter, tighter, lifted effect. There are several different incision techniques used, and Dr. Howard will determine the best one for you. Typically, they encircle the areola so that its colored border masks any evidence, and the areola can be positioned in a higher, perkier position on the breast. Circulation, nipple sensation and even the ability to breastfeed can be preserved. Once your breasts are marked, and the anesthesia has taken effect, the surgery will take around 2-3 hours. 

Recovering From Your Breast Reduction

After you’ve come out of anesthesia and been driven home, your recovery will begin. Plan on making the time to allow yourself plenty of rest, limited movement, and the ability to care for your dressings. You will need to wear a compression garment until instructed otherwise by Dr. Howard, who will be monitoring your recovery during follow-up appointments.

The average recovery time is about 3-4 weeks. However, allowing yourself a restful recovery period will ensure that you are left with the best results possible. Once you are fully healed, you’ll be able to continue the years to come with the relief and comfort that you’ve been craving. 


According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, breast reduction surgery has one of the highest rates of satisfaction among patients. Multiple studies have documented how this procedure leads to a marked improvement in back pain, posture, and balance. (1)

You’ll also have aesthetic benefits to look forward to. Dr. Howard will ensure that you are left with a beautiful pair of breasts that complement your proportions and are perfectly positioned on your chest.

How Much Does a Breast Reduction Cost in Chicago?

It’s nearly impossible to put a price on pain relief. The cost of a breast reduction surgery varies from woman to woman based on her needs and anatomy. You’ll be given an accurate estimate for the cost of your procedure during your personal consultation. However, if you are suffering from back, shoulder, and neck pain, your breasts may be a health concern, and your health insurance may cover your surgery. Dr. Howard and his staff will be able to assist you with organizing payment logistics.


  1. Ferchak D. Breasts and Your Back: Why Breast Size Can Affect Back Pain. SpineUniverse. Published December 3, 2020. Accessed June 3, 2021. https://www.spineuniverse.com/conditions/back-pain/breasts-back-pain#how
  2. Innocenti B. Biomechanics: a fundamental tool with a long history (and even longer future!). Muscles Ligaments Tendons J. 2018;7(4):491-492. Published 2018 Apr 16. doi:10.11138/mltj/2017.7.4.491
  3. Barbosa AF, Raggi GC, Sá Cdos S, Costa MP, Lima JE Jr, Tanaka C. Postural control in women with breast hypertrophy. Clinics (Sao Paulo). 2012;67(7):757-760. doi:10.6061/clinics/2012(07)09
  4. Papanastasiou C, Ouellet JA, Lessard L. The Effects of Breast Reduction on Back Pain and Spine Measurements: A Systematic Review. Plast Reconstr Surg Glob Open. 2019;7(8):e2324. Published 2019 Aug 12. doi:10.1097/GOX.0000000000002324
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