Help with finding a bra - fibromyalgia, small band, large cup edition.
April 28, 2015 1:29 PM   Subscribe

I have chronic pain, and one way it manifests is rib pain and upper back pain. It occurs regardless of bra wearing status, but bras make it worse. But I can't go without a bra, which is uncomfortable and causes different pain. I think a bra with a really wide band would help, but can't find anything in my size.

My current size right now is 33" band, 40" breasts, which would put me at a 34DDD. My doctor suggested a posture bra. My search has turned up very little, they seem to be geared towards bigger band sizes. I've tried a variety of bras, and have had no/limited relief. So far, the "best" bras I've found have been genie-type bras, but to get the appropriate cup size, I have to get a bigger band. But even those hurt.

I *think* if I could find a wide band of some sort, something that spread out the weight a little more, it would help. Right now, in smaller band sizes, it is too narrow of an area to support.

I've tried wider bands/smaller cup size, but they don't support me well enough and cause other back pain issues. And the band still hurts.

I've tried sports bras, and they are especially painful. Too constrictive and even though they're wider, most have a bottom elastic band that seems to do the heavy lifting, and that little band is where it hurts the worse. Though it seems to be pretty consistently painful throughout the band.

Shelf-bras I've tried lack enough heft, tend to cut into my shoulders and the bottom cuts into my chest in a painful way.

The only thing I haven't tried is taping them. I've thought about it just to see if it might give me some short term relief.

Complicating matters, I suspect I'll need a smaller bra soon. I've gained some weight over the past year, and just discovered my thyroid levels are too low again, so probably will lose some weight once adjusted. This happened last time I had my thyroid dose adjusted upwards. Historically, when I lose weight, I don't lose much cup size. Last year at this time I was a 32 F. The pain is probably not related, it's been pretty consistent for the last 2 years, and started 2.5 years ago, completely separate timeline from the thyroid issue.

I mention it because while I'm looking for something now, but also suspect I'll need something smaller later. At least that's how it's worked in the past. I'm really afraid because buying a normal cut bra is difficult in that size, I have no idea how I'll manage something specialty.

The rib pain used to come and go. It is now more or less continuous except with treatment. Treatment includes pain medication, icing, or icy-hot. Sometimes all 3. This helps, but doesn't eliminate the pain.

I'm in my late 30s, and the girls are becoming somewhat pendulous, which I think is partially to blame for the back pain without a bra. I think.

I am desperate for some relief. I don't know all the bra types out there, but I'm hoping there is something that will work. I was hoping something like a bustier but with straps. I also have limited funds to try and find the right bra, but at this point, would be willing to spend more if I found something that honestly seemed promising. I did find this, and thought about trying both the 34DD and 36DD, in hopes either being a soft cup, it stretches or that the 36DD is enough. However, looking at it, the lower (elastic?) band does prompt some concern.

Help me metafilter; I need some relief.
posted by [insert clever name here] to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (30 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Not sure if it will meet your needs, but I thought I'd mention it since you didn't in your post--have you tried looking at longline bras?
posted by quaking fajita at 1:34 PM on April 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

Are there department stores with bra fitting services where you live? Not just salesclerks, but specialists.
posted by Carol Anne at 1:37 PM on April 28, 2015

Have you looked into an Ahhh Bra (link blasts an infomercial). The bands look supercomfy & forgiving, not sure how much support they have. QUV have something similar in the Genie Bra.
posted by wwax at 1:41 PM on April 28, 2015

I googled 'long line soft cup bra' and found this - any good?
posted by corvine at 1:45 PM on April 28, 2015

No first-hand experience, but Decent Exposures has been around for ages (relatively speaking) and is well-reviewed. The "cami-bra" there might work?
posted by kmennie at 1:52 PM on April 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

that bra's by Miss Mary of Sweden - their site is here with some more potential options in your sizes (I think a DDD is a UK E)
posted by corvine at 1:53 PM on April 28, 2015

Response by poster: No good department stores. Tried Macy's and that was a disaster. Fitter tried to tell me that boobs spilling out the front and under the arms is totally normal! *facepalm*. They didn't have (but could order!) sizes in the range I need.

Nordstrom to open fall of this year.

Had not heard of a longline bra, but that might be exactly what I need. If not, the ahh bra?

You guys rock, I thought there were 0 answers and I have several within a few minutes of posting.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 1:55 PM on April 28, 2015

Would a corset / bodice type thing be more comfortable? I was fitted for something like this at a Renaissance fair once and it was surprising comfortable and supportive of my very large bosom.
posted by Squeak Attack at 2:01 PM on April 28, 2015

Oh goddess, please add massage therapy (with a good therapist who is proficient in treatment work, not just relaxation) to your list of fixes. A good massage will likely give you significant relief for days at a minimum, and possibly weeks. Also perhaps look into searching for and working on trigger points yourself with a tool like a Theracane or Back Buddy. If you like icy-hot, try a better topical pain reliever such as Pain Wizard.
posted by mysterious_stranger at 2:02 PM on April 28, 2015

You NEED this bra. Someone else here on Ask recommended it in a past bra thread, and I deeply, deeply regret that I did not learn of this earlier in life. So, so comfortable.
posted by Dashy at 2:05 PM on April 28, 2015 [3 favorites]

longline bras are great for this. you might also want to try surgical bras, which are very soft while also providing good support that is not uncomfortable.
posted by poffin boffin at 2:21 PM on April 28, 2015

I've had some trouble with chronic back and shoulder pain that was made worse by wearing certain bras. Like perfectly fitted $90 magical underwires that can make my shoulder spasm in a few hours. Anyway. I figured out that it was a combination of underwires and back closure. It is surprisingly hard to find a 36 DDD in front close, even with underwires. Bras with underbands just roll up on me.

This is what works for me: cheap leisure bra. Glamorise is one of the few bra makers that does bras in small rib/big boob, though aside from this bra I haven't had much luck. Some day I might order from Decent Exposures, but the Glamorise is typically about a third of the price. They last about a year if you rotate through a few.
posted by monopas at 2:40 PM on April 28, 2015

I'm repeating the recommendation for the Decent Exposures bra. It is super comfortable and custom made to your liking. If you sweat a lot the Dri-Release actually keeps you dry! No hardware at all! I ask them to put the stitching on the outside because my fibro-skin takes exception to the pressure of thread. I also get a 1-1/2" band. It's snug enough to support but there are no red lines after a long day.

When I lose weight, it's in the breasts themselves, not around my ribs, so the bras remain comfortable. They do not provide a "Jayne Mansfield" figure but it's not a mono-bolster shape, and they are definitely One Less Thing that brings pain.

Finally, they're machine washable forever. They're not going to degrade from contact with the icy-hot or other creams. They're not as cheap as a department store bra, but they are totally worth it.
posted by Jesse the K at 2:51 PM on April 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

Kristin at the blog K-Line is dealing with myofascial pain syndrome.

If you have questions about "Bras in the Time of Pain Management," as one of her posts is titled, she's very good about reading comments and answering questions posed therein. Good luck! Here are all her posts tagged "bras," and all her posts tagged "pain."

She says she wears these bras when she has flares (in bigger bands and smaller cups than she would wear normally):

1. The $38 Bali Comfort Revolution Smart Sizes Wire Free Bra This is her desperation bra, she says:
Just thinking about this gives me goosebumps of horror. I wear a bra - in public! - that basically does nothing but smush my boobs together and keep them from bouncing (sort of).

Lord. I cannot believe I just admitted that. I considered hiding this fact but it seems, well, wrong. Totally disingenuous, like. And while I've never understood how someone could blame "sensitivity" on her choice to wear a band that is objectively too large to hold things up optimally, let's just say I'm getting the picture.

The price of compassion, people.

You know what? I may be horrified but I'm still doing it. Because my big-time pain trigger point is exactly underneath where my delightfully snug bands sit (on the left side). I can either manage excruciating pain and have boobs that look fantastic, or I can hide smushness under a blazer and feel somewhat less excruciating pain. Great choices, no?
2. The $50 Fantasie Smoothing Underwire Balconette (4520).

Kristin's review
It either works or it doesn't. And, happily, it works for me - though the proportions of the 34 back are a bit odd. The wires are trending slightly too wide and there's a bit of rippling in the (molded but soft-cup/unpadded) fabric because it's slightly too full in the upper cup for me in the new size. Mind you, there's lift and separation happening and the lines of this bra are very attractive on me (which is why I've been wearing it as my standard T shirt bra for more than a decade). The 34 band is adequately snug so that there's no riding up (but not in a way that makes the pain worse).

Wearing this with an extender is tricky because the proportions are already a bit wide for my narrow frame. I'm not opposed to unhooking it at 3pm when I'm sitting at my desk and no one's around. The straps on this bra are quite comfortable (but they don't look wide) and the under wires are very firm - so they support. Of course, if under bust pain is your issue, you've got to be careful about overly firm wires.
3. The $200 Empreinte Melody Full Cup (0786).

Kristin's description:
This isn't a "youthful" bra but it's not in any way frumpy. It's understated and sexy and it's designed to ensure your comfort (if you're pain-free) or to facilitate comfort when you're working with pain.

This one ain't cheap. It was 200 bucks all in but it's a gem. It isn't easy to spend that amount when one is trying to save money - and given that the goal is to not need to wear it for long. But I'm following my own advice. It's worth that price to feel gorgeous and comfortable at a time when those things are elusive. And even when this pain goes (mercifully we're making strides, peeps, but I can see it's complicated and it's going to take time), I'm well aware that it is likely to recur, at least until menopause.
posted by virago at 3:12 PM on April 28, 2015

I am the same band size and vary up to a cup size larger. Sports bras really suck, don't they? I don't know on whose planet they're comfortable. I could tell you about my favorite bras but I think I'd be doing a disservice. When I was fitted by a specialist at a lingerie specialty store, she told me that what would hold me up best had everything to do with the shape of my individual breasts: for me it's plunge bras and triangle shapes. For somebody else in my same size, maybe a full cup would be best. Maybe a demi-cup would be best. Etc.

So, I can't stress enough the importance of going to a lingerie specialty store for a fitting (they'll usually critique every individual bra fit, too). Not a department store; a lingerie boutique. I know how to adjust every single one of my bras and which fits me and why. I now know how to recognize plunge bras in the wild as well.

Must nth the long line suggestion, though. When I'm bra shopping I often feel the back: nothing less than 3 clasps allowed. 5 clasps? Let's go home together.
posted by sweltering at 3:22 PM on April 28, 2015

If you'd like to fall into a rabbit hole, try checking out The Lingerie Addict's full bust section. Here's the site's entry on fibromyalgia and some front clasp examples.
posted by sweltering at 3:33 PM on April 28, 2015

Response by poster: I live in Milwaukee, WI. There aren't any good bra shops in the city that I am aware. Everyone I know wears the wrong size bra because A) that's all they know and B) it's the only options we've got here. I've looked. I think we're just close enough to Chicago that every thing good is just there. But going to Chicago is physically difficult for me. Going to Chicago to go bra shopping (or any sort of clothing shopping due to the movement of such) is pretty much an impossibility. If I've missed any places, please feel free to correct me. I spent a lot of time shopping for the right bra before the fibro and I have had no luck with professional fittings in the area but that doesn't mean I haven't missed something obvious or new. (I'm also kicking myself for not going for a fitting when I was in LA a couple months ago. Big city, bound to have been exactly the shop/fitting I needed.)

But, I think I'm good on fit. I've read all the bra guides out there, and understand how a properly fit bra should look and feel. But once the rib pain started, those became unwearable. Or wearable for short periods infrequently. While we don't have a Nordstrom (yet), we have a Nordstrom Rack that went in about a year and a half ago, which gave me some great options in my size; until I lost the ability to wear "normal" bras. I have a well fitting softcup bra (I believe that's the right term) but it doesn't help. The problem seems to be the band.

I already have the Bali Comfort Revolution Smart Sizes Wire Free Bra - I just checked and confirmed. It is indeed one I can wear more frequently and for longer, but not all the time, and not more than an hour or two. Longer with pain killers. The other "I can wear this for a while" bra is a similar design, but no clasps. The tag washed off or I cut it out, and can't remember the brand but it was a similar idea to that one, no wires, stretchy cup size. I think it might be the "barely there Bra" hanes bra.

I had very little problem with underwires before this. I don't want to say "no" problem, because I don't know anyone that hasn't had a wire pop free at SOME inopportune time. But now they are in the unwearable (or prepare to be in a lot of pain for the duration of wearing it.)

I suspect front clasp, surgical and longline are the direction I need to go.

FFS, whoever thought fibromyalgia was a good idea is an asshole.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 4:32 PM on April 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

This may or may not fit your needs. I have had rib pain and issues. I went to Penney's and tried bras from them, etc.

The best bra for my every day needs is the Pink bra from Kmart, of all places.

I have tried expensive bras, cheap bras from Walmart and Target (no), but the Pink brand of bras from Kmart met my needs. They are not under wire, they are not some sort of torture device like Playtex (wtf?), but they do give some support and I can stand them.

Before that, I was just buying cotton bras with underwires and cutting out the wire part. Which is also an option.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 5:02 PM on April 28, 2015

Here's some ideas from Figleaves.

"Sleep Bra" Seems stretchy and comfy

Technically a nursing bra, but who cares.

Cotton and wire free.

A longline bra.
posted by Crystalinne at 5:46 PM on April 28, 2015

I wasn't going to bring it up BUT since you did first, I had a breast reduction about two years ago and it was the best thing I ever did. Insurance paid all but the deductible. I paid that with a Care Credit card. Pain was minimal, was off work about two weeks (also a tummy tuck) and now you can barely see the scars. Amazing the difference it made and I was not even as big (38DD). I had thought getting insurance to pay would be hard but dr sent in pictures of the grooves in my shoulders and under my breasts, and it was approved on the first try. Definitely worth checking to see if this is an option for you. Surgery ended up costing less than all the bras I had tried.
posted by tamitang at 5:52 PM on April 28, 2015

On re-read I see you mean surgical bras. Advice stands though if this is at all an option.
posted by tamitang at 5:55 PM on April 28, 2015

Thirding Decent Exposures. They tell you how to measure and they custom make it. (Full disclosure: my grandson's other grandma started the company years ago; her sister now owns and runs it. She started it because she was a skinny girl with huge boobs and could never find a comfortable bra.)
posted by mareli at 6:31 PM on April 28, 2015

Renegade Lingerie I found thru googling "mastectomy bras, Milwaukee". Maybe give them call?

I know you aren't being treated for a mastectomy but these are specialty stores that really know their stuff.
posted by tipsyBumblebee at 9:16 PM on April 28, 2015

Fourthing Decent Exposures.

I went through a stretch about four years ago where anything on my ribcage was way too much (feel free to MeMail) and the ribbing (non-elastic) option for the band helped a lot then, even though it's not as much support as I prefer. Also getting the arm holes cut half an inch lower than the default.

Mine have worn really really well, too, and the customer support has always been excellent. (If you write or call and explain what your concerns are, they'll help you sort out what will work best for you.)
posted by modernhypatia at 9:32 PM on April 28, 2015

Response by poster: tamitang, I've been considering but haven't talked to my doctor and don't know if it will help. My fear is that it will cause undue pain, but not actually resolve the issue. Or worse, increase the pain. I also could not afford it without insurance, and I'm not sure they'd cover it; I might be right at the border of what they consider medically necessary and I've heard insurance companies have gotten stingy about it, requiring a G cup or larger and lots of physical therapy first. I don't know if extenuating circumstances, like a pain disorder, would change things.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 11:30 PM on April 28, 2015

Join the forums at breasthealthonline. They are a tremendous resource on reductions. I am so much more comfortable now.
posted by Dashy at 5:55 AM on April 29, 2015

You might try They have some bras with wide flat straps- one even with a front closure and they carry the sizes you're looking for.
posted by leslies at 2:41 PM on April 29, 2015

I hurt a muscle in my side some years ago bought one of these longline bras (or at least same brand and very similar style
). It gave me so much relief. I'm a little bit less busty as you are (only a 34DD), and I'm not sure it will do the same thing for your fibro pain, but the reason I chose that bra is because I saw it recommended online by other people with pain problems (hernia, post-surgery, pulled muscle, etc). And while it's a bit spendy, it's not nearly as expensive as many others on the market.

Also, Nordstrom has free shipping and free return shipping. So you can try buying bras there online.
posted by bluefly at 5:06 PM on April 29, 2015

Crystalinne is onto something with the nursing bra. Many maternity and nursing bras are made without underwire, even in larger sizes. I wear a 32 F (which is technically a DDD) and have a comfortable one by Bravado. I bought one of these after a fitting in a specialty bra store and then ordered more of them online.

Incidentally, the only department store I've had luck with for the small band / large cup sizes is Saks. They have a larger selection of brands - for some reason the U.K. brands have much more to offer - and in this instance are not necessarily more expensive.
posted by imanastasia at 5:39 PM on April 29, 2015

Hello fibro friend! I logged in for the first time in a few years because I may be able to help you as well. I have fibro and 34H boobs (I put on 50 pounds and most of it went there - I started out at a C!) and I like this bra. Now, I know you're not a 38, but the brand runs super small around the band, and a 38 fits like a fairly comfy 34, at least for me, and I would say the cups on a 38DD fit like a generous 34F/small 34G (which I was when I bought one). The band and straps are wide and are decent at taking the pressure off. You don't get a *lot* of shaping, but as you don't have quite the force of boobgravity that I do, you'll probably get better shaping out of it than I do. Even with the extra boobspace I've gained recently, I'll probably still buy another one. And hey, they're cheap, so if you hate it you haven't lost much. (I love the idea of those Decent Exposures, but they're above my pricepoint for soft bras - I can still wear underwires so I have to save the bra budget for those...)

(And thank you to everyone else - I'll be saving this thread for my next bra shopping round!)
posted by dust.wind.dude at 4:12 PM on May 6, 2015

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