My sports bra: Causing my neck tightness and pain?

We all prefer sports bras during our workouts due to extensive support (less jumping, no spilling and shifting), you can sweat in your sports bra and it allows more motion than your daily bra since it doe not have wires and a tight strap passing behind your back. As many females may think a workout is not a real workout without a sports bra, you also need to understand that certain bras can lead to onset or aggravation of neck pain. Let me explain how:

When you are wearing a regular bra, there are three anchor/force points: one is on your mid back and two are passing through your shoulders at the very end of your collarbone on each side. Now, keep Newton’s third law in mind: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

In the picture above, the purples lines are the direction that bra straps pull and red arrows are the direction of opposing forces from your muscles. The bra straps pull downwards on top of your shoulders. The top straps are resting on the bony part of your shoulders, therefore, there is not much of a protective muscle activation from your body as a response. However, on your mid back, since there is an inward pull, there is an opposing pull from our spine and surrounding musculature. Females are more likely to be more kyphotic (meaning having more convexity) at that level of the spine.

Lets look at what kind of forces a sports bra causes in your upper body.

Once you are wearing a sports bra, you can see that the straps pass closer towards your necks instead of your shoulders. At that passage point, there are two neck muscles that get tense and tighten up as per Newton’s third law: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The bra strap pulls downward, and the muscles tighten up to oppose the downward pull of the bra. This is how wearing your bra for an extensive period of time can lead to muscle spasms in your neck and shoulders. Since there is more than one strap support for the back, it causes less point specific tension for your mid back when compared to a daily bra. If you are wearing your sports bra past your workouts, you are also increasing your chance of further tightening your neck muscles.

Take home points:

  • Wear your sports when you work out, not all day!
  • If you are planning on wearing your sports bra for past your workouts, stay away from cross patterns in the back.





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