love your breasts…

breasts care bowen therapy

Mammary glands – boobs, tits, jugs, knockers or any one of the multitude of euphemisms – we girls need to look after our breasts.

what are breasts anyway ?

Breasts are made of glandular tissue (that produces milk) and fatty tissue.  It’s the amount of that fatty tissue (and milk if breast feeding) that determines how the big breasts are.

The milk-producing tissue contains lobes and lobules, where milk is produced.  Milk travels through a network of ducts to reach the nipple.  That dark area of skin surrounding the nipple is called the areola.  Breasts also contain nerve endings, and a network of lymph vessels and lymph nodes.

Each breast is connected to the body by fascia and ligaments.  The base of the breast is attached to the chest by deep fascia over the pectoral muscles in the chest.  Ligaments suspend the breast tissue from the collarbone and the clavico-pectoral fascia (in the collarbone and chest), giving them their shape.

Both men and women have breasts.  At puberty, estrogen and other hormones in women cause the breasts to develop.  Testosterone in men counters the estrogen, suppressing their growth and preventing milk-producing capabilities.

breasts anatomy

While both men and women have almost the same fatty structures on our chests, restrictions are applied to females…

Most women in western society wear bras to contain their breasts.  It’s more a social convention than a true necessity for most.  Many cultures associate women’s breasts with sexuality.  Bare breasts are often regarded as immodest or indecent, with requirements (via indecent exposure laws) for women’s breasts to be covered in public.  Even seeing the shape of a nipple through clothing can cause uproar !

cover them up !

Women with breasts are expected to wear bras.  For many young girls their first bra feels like a step into womanhood.

Bras help apportion some of the weight of the breasts to the rib or shoulder area, especially important for those larger breasted.  And they also prevent bouncing, eases pain or discomfort.

However, a study suggests that not wearing a bra may be more healthy for breasts.  Like other musculature in the body, it can be a case of “use it or lose it”.  Not wearing a bra was seen to result in the muscles holding breasts in place”working-out” more, thus becoming more effective.  Wearing bras from a young age are thought to lead to deterioration of muscles through not needing to work, and result in increased sagging.  Much like all that sitting leads to abdominals and butt muscles forgetting how to work properly… makes a level of sense.

There is a caveat though – once you’re older, going bra-less is unlikely to give the same benefits.  Despite that, around the house my bra still comes off at the first opportunity !

breasts bra

a bra that fits well

Given most of us will now suffer by not wearing a bra (both psychologically and physically), ensuring a good fitting bra becomes very important !

Underwired bras seem to be the most common bra type in all shops.  In fact, I find it hard to find a non-underwired bra that looks and feels good.

Bras are designed to create restriction of the breasts, hold the breasts in place (or push them into another place) and prevent them from moving.  Underwires are a lot like cages, confining those little birdies.

Surveys indicate that up to 80% of women wear the wrong sized bra.  For those with larger breasts, they tend to choose a too-small bra.  And I know that I have been a culprit of this over the years.

Wearing an ill-fitting bra can cause a multitude of problems, beyond those cosmetic bulges in the wrong places.  Headaches, shoulder pain and back pain are some of the more obvious physical impacts.  Digestion and breathing can also be impacted, as too small bras constrict the ribs and diaphragm.  Wrong cup sizes can push breasts into the wrong location, and/or have underwire pushing into breast tissue, impacting those ligaments that hold the breasts in place.

Breast movement can cause pain, putting tension on the skin and stretching ligaments.  This makes choice of bra for playing sports vitally important.  Especially the right type of bra for the right type of sport.

Low impact sports require less support, with those over-the-head singlet-type “bras” possibly enough.  But for higher impact sports and running, a well fitted sports bra is needed.  If you’re moving around a lot, you want to make sure that your breasts are not !

breasts bra badly fitting

breast cancer

Unfortunately, breasts are not all milk or lacy frills.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in Australia, with 1 in 8 at risk of being diagnosed.  Breast cancer is where the cells in breast lobules and/or ducts grow abnormally.

Factors that increase risk of breast cancer include being a woman, increasing age, family history and a number of hormonal and lifestyle factors.  The myth that bras cause cancer is that – a myth.

Symptoms may include new lumps or thickening in the breast or under the arm, nipple sores or discharge, or changes in the skin on the breast.  It must be noted that some women feel no symptoms.

In Australia,”more than half of breast cancers are diagnosed after investigation of a breast change found by the woman or by her doctor”.  Self breast examination – knowing the look and feel of your breasts – is key.

breast self examination

check yourself !

Self breast examination is one of the most important things that every woman should do.  Regularly.  It’s one of the easiest ways to detect changes in breast tissue early.

Ideally, self breast examination is best done at the end of the menstrual cycle, when breasts are least likely to be tender or swollen.  However, what’s most important is remembering to self check regularly !  regardless of where in the cycle you are (or aren’t if reached menopause or had a hysterectomy).  Reminders in the calendar to give an alert each month is a great idea.  If you’re a facebook follower, then maybe a monthly reminder via the facebook page will be a good prompt for us all !

There are many guidelines for how to check your self-examine your breasts.  I liked this simply explained one from the National Breast Cancer Foundation in the US, but there are also many others:

In the Shower:

Using the pads of your fingers, move around your entire breast in a circular pattern moving from the outside to the center, checking the entire breast and armpit area. Check both breasts each month feeling for any lump, thickening, or hardened knot. Notice any changes and get lumps evaluated by your healthcare provider.

In Front of a Mirror:

Visually inspect your breasts with your arms at your sides. Next, raise your arms high overhead.

Look for any changes in the contour, any swelling, or dimpling of the skin, or changes in the nipples. Next, rest your palms on your hips and press firmly to flex your chest muscles. Left and right breasts will not exactly match—few women’s breasts do, so look for any dimpling, puckering, or changes, particularly on one side.

Lying Down:

When lying down, the breast tissue spreads out evenly along the chest wall. Place a pillow under your right shoulder and your right arm behind your head. Using your left hand, move the pads of your fingers around your right breast gently in small circular motions covering the entire breast area and armpit.

Use light, medium, and firm pressure. Squeeze the nipple; check for discharge and lumps. Repeat these steps for your left breast.

If changes are felt – lumps, thickening, rashes, anything !  then see a doctor for further checks.


breasts self examination bowen therapy reminder

a Bowen move that you can do yourself

When my clients visit, I like to show many of them how to do simple chest moves on themselves.  They’re quick and easy moves over the pectoral muscle.  And they’re great for men and women !

As a preventative measure, these chest moves can help stimulate circulation in the breast area.  It can also affect the lymphatic tissue of the breast and surrounding tissues.

As curative measures, the moves may help relieve symptoms of pre-menstrual tension, particularly breast tenderness and discomfort.  It can also help with lactation problems and mastitis.

Another reason why I love these moves so much is that they help the whole chest area.  We all spend too much time sitting at computers, with shoulders hunched forward, thanks to tight pectorals.  The Bowen chest moves helps rebalance those pectoral muscles.

I recommend that these moves are done weekly, if possible.  But, I know we don’t always remember that… so at least monthly is good – maybe after that self-breast examination.

For my clients, or anyone in Sydney, I’m happy to schedule a 10-15 minute lesson on how to do this chest move on yourself.  Simply contact me to arrange a time.