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You love your fashion-forward bra, but if it has skinny straps you might want to swap it for a healthier one. The reason: Skinny straps can do a number on your back and neck, says David Wickenden, a physical therapist and owner of Kiwi Physical Therapy in New York City. "A skinnier bra strap may be placing constant pressure on your upper back, spine, and neck, and blood flow to the neck may be restricted," he says. The result: a neckache or backache.
The fix: The key is in the fit of the bra, says Susan Nethero, owner and founder of Intimacy boutiques nationwide. A bra that fits properly—it sits snugly against your body, is level front to back, and doesn't ride up—will provide 90 percent of the necessary support for your breasts, Nethero says. "We associate looseness with comfort, but that's not how a bra functions. When you use that principle for bras, you get into trouble because you're expecting skinny straps to do all the work," she says. Breasts can weigh from 10 ounces to 10 pounds each. If you're expecting skinny straps to carry the weight because the bra is too loose around, you can imagine the stress and strain on the shoulders and neck, Nethero points out. She recommends a professional bra fitting so that your support is coming from the bra itself and not the straps—whatever their size. If you're large-breasted, a wider strap will help distribute the 10 percent of the breast weight that the straps do support.