Breast Health for Runners - Banish the Bounce


Tom Goom, The Running Physio recently had a great post by Jayne Nixon, it covers some of the issues that female runners have that male runners do not, affecting their mechanics.


There are some issues in sport that only effect women. Some of these topics aren't easy to find good quality advice on, so we are starting a small series of articles for female athletes. Our first, by Jayne Nixon, discusses the importance of effective breast support when running. Jayne is a clinical specialist with a wealth of experience with athletes and recently set up a running school in Kent. She works at Sevenoaks Physiotherapy which is one of our recommended clinics.
After having a very interesting discussion the other day with one of my fitness friends about why ladies do not use their arms to run properly – I had a thought that I would try and convince a few more people to take it seriously. I do a lot of biomechanical analysis and this is something I do not take great pleasure in pointing out! The way you swing your arms (or do not) is directly dependent on how good a bra you are wearing!!! If you are too busy holding your top box to use your arms to propel yourself you are inadvertently slowing yourself down and fixing your trunk to stop your boobs bouncing up and down and from side to side.
If you need some convincing here is the research about how much you are bouncing!!
During walking, a woman’s breasts move the same amount in and out, up and down and from side to side: about 33% in each dimension. Up the pace to a jog or a run, and the movement is split: 51% up and down, 22% side to side and 27% in and out. The overall pattern is a figure of eight (on it’s side).
Breasts move as much during a slow jog as they do during a sprint, meaning no matter what your pace, you should always wear a sports bra- and a good one at that! Two ordinary bras will not stop the motion of that figure of 8.
If you are hitting the ground hard and have a large ground reaction force then you are getting a lot more vertical bounce than you would ever want (this can be up to the weight of the breast x8). This can damage the main breast ligaments (known as the Coopers Ligaments). It can alter your whole body biomechanics, by fixing your upper trunk and shoulder gridle in a poor attempt to limit the bounce and damage (AKA – stop the boobs heading south!) This is in turn can give you thoracic pain, low back pain etc….
Warning clicking here will make your eyes water! Put your size in and your sport and see how much damage you could be doing! Enough said!
The Research Group in Breast Health at University of Portsmouth suggests that breast pain affects half the female population of the UK and is aggravated by breast movement. Their site has a wealth of information on appropriate breast support and breast health education. Debbie Risuis and their team studied breast movement during various exercises. The following is adapted from their abstract which is available online here – Risius et al. (2013),
Effective sports bras that minimise breast displacement are crucial to reduce breast discomfort during exercise.”

“Exercise modality has an impact upon the magnitude and distribution of multiplanar breast displacement, and also upon a sports bra’s effectiveness at reducing this breast movement. Sports bra manufacturers may wish to design sport specific products, as a sports bra effectiveness is influenced by the type of exercise.”
Take away points
  1. If you can not swing your arms and relax your thoracic area because you are holding your breasts you need a better bra.
  2. If you get breast pain when running then you are probably over stressing the tissue, and more importantly the Coopers ligament and you need a better bra.
  3. If your running technique is increasing how hard you hit the ground and making you bounce and/or hurt get your gait analysed by a professional – a physio who knows what they are doing and can help you alter it.
  4. Do not just wear the same old thing you have been wearing for years, as you change shape it will not being doing what it should, the material will degenerate just like your running shoes will. Replace if you need it! Invest in a good one that you can wear a lot. You would do it with shoes so do it with the bra!
  5. If you do not know if you are bouncing take some video on your phone of you running and be honest to yourself.
So keep up the running just not the bouncing!
Jayne Nixon, Clinical Specialist Physiotherapist, Sevenoaks Physiotherapy and The Running School Kent.
Originally found on The Running Physio - reposted with permission

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