American Society of Plastic Surgeons
For Medical Professionals

Take a load off your back with a breast reduction

take a load off your back with a breast reduction

Breast reduction surgery is rated amongst the highest out of all plastic surgery procedures when it comes to patient satisfaction. Not only can it reduce or eliminate upper back, shoulder and neck pain from heavy breasts, a reduction can also help enhance self-esteem, get you back to exercise and improve the fit and shape of off-the-rack clothing and bras.

Breast reduction... and a breast lift?

Many women don't know that a breast reduction includes a breast lift, every time, no exceptions! Studies suggest that improvement of symptoms may be related to both the removal of weight as well as lifting the breast into the proper position on the chest.

As we age and sometimes from genetics or pregnancy, heavy breasts can sag below the level of the ribs over the abdomen. This leads to poor posture by causing the shoulders to roll forward, which impacts the upper and lower back muscles that strain to support the forward bending of the chest. Most chiropractors and physical therapists are aware of how breast size and position impact back pain in their clients.

It may help to see one of these practitioners to better understand what parts of your posture contribute to back pain and if the breast size and position is a factor. In many cases, if you have back symptoms related to large breasts, the surgery will qualify for insurance coverage.

When is a good time for a breast reduction?

For younger women in their teens, it is beneficial to wait until after puberty when the breasts are fully developed. However, there are some cases when a breast reduction might be done before that time. Talk to your pediatrician and a pediatric plastic surgeon to determine if a breast reduction is appropriate in a patient under age 17.

Breast growth is mainly impacted by hormonal changes, such as puberty, pregnancy, menopause and some medical drugs. Your surgeon can help you determine the best time to have a breast reduction related to these issues. Weight changes do impact the breasts, but many times, even with significant weight loss, the breasts stay large.

Heavy breast tissue may still cause back and shoulder pain, shoulder grooving from bras or rashes below the breast. If you are in the process of losing weight, meet with a plastic surgeon to determine if you should wait until you reach your goal weight to have the reduction. It may be that getting a breast reduction during your weight loss journey will help your ability to lose weight by making exercising easier.

Any breast surgery – and breast reduction is no exception – can impact breastfeeding. If you are planning to become pregnant and breastfeed in the future, then it is best to wait until after having children to have a reduction.

Is there a perfect size to relieve the pain?

Reducing the overall weight and lifting the breast is going to provide relief to most patients. The final size is often a matter of patient preference and safety. Talking with your board-certified plastic surgeon about your goals and what size will match your overall body shape is very important.

Heavy breasts oftentimes put a lot of stress on the back and shoulders. It is not selfish to want that to go away! If your breasts are causing back and shoulder pain, your bra straps cause grooves in your shoulders or you have constant rashes below your breasts, seek advice from a board-certified plastic surgeon. It is likely that a breast reduction could help.

The ASPS offers a helpful Find a Surgeon tool for member plastic surgeons in your area that would be happy to meet with you to provide more information and help you reach your goals.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.


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