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Buying Bras with Fibromyalgia

Today's guest post is by Donyae Coles, a freelance writer who's been a card-carrying bra wearer since age 10. I know that many of my readers cope with Fibromyalgia, and I've wanted to include a blog post on this topic for ages. Thanks so much to Donyae for sharing her experience and offering her expertise on TLA. If you want to read more of Donyae's work, check out her blog: Free Nights and Weekends. You can also follow her on her Facebook page of the same name.

african woman in black bra

Fibromyalgia is a chronic disease that causes widespread pain in the body, joint tenderness, and sensitivity. There is no cure, and it’s managed with a variety of pain medication. For the people that suffer from this, tags on clothing may be unbearable... let alone a full-on bra. For people living with fibromyalgia, just making it to the end of the day in a bra can be agony.

Many people opt for tops that have a built in cami, but if you need or just want more substantial support, a jersey panel with some elastic won’t cut it. Sports bras, the popular suggestion for the “anti-bra” crowd also wouldn’t be a strong choice as the tightness of the bra can cause great discomfort.

Although there are no “right” answers to this mystery, there are some helpful hints from people who have been dealing with this issue for some time.

Cotton (or Silk!) Only

Stay away from synthetic fabrics. They don’t breathe well and may cause moisture to build up causing the garment to become further uncomfortable to wear. Natural materials promote airflow. If you must go with a less than natural material due to budget constraints, then a microfiber blend would be your best bet as it will help keep the moisture off.

Front Closures

This is a am important point for many people who have Fibromyalgia. With the joint pain and the added sensitivity, they often have trouble reaching around to close and open bras. Hooking them in the front and turning them may case irritation to already sensitive bodies. Instead, a bra with a front closure provides an easy alternative. The bonus is that the backs of these bras are often much smoother than traditional ones.

Underwires Are Not the Enemy

Nor are they your friend. Some women like them for their support. Others hate them for busting through the fabric and stabbing them. If you have had bad luck with bras in the past, a bra without under wires may be a good option for you. If you choose a bra that does have an underwire, ensure that the area of the cup the wire sits in is well padded and reinforced so as to avoid having the wire from breaking through.

Buy the Right Size

This, for many people, is the problem. Making sure that your bra is a good fit is paramount to comfort. Some pain issues can be solved simply by being professionally fit for a bra instead of guessing in the dressing room.

Although there aren’t any one-size-fits-all answers (or bras for that matter) there are a few options that may work. Adhesive cups that do not have straps or any kind may provide support, but aren’t a permanent solution. There are also ‘invisible back’ bras that some people have found comfort in, as well as leisure/recovery bras. The important thing is to find something that works for your body and not to "settle the lesser of two evils."

If you are living with fibromyalgia, what's your advice for bra shopping? And how do you cope with pain and discomfort from your bras?

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Cora Harrington

Founder and Editor in Chief of The Lingerie Addict. Author of In Intimate Detail: How to Choose, Wear, and Love Lingerie. I believe lingerie is fashion too, and that everyone who wants it deserves gorgeous lingerie.

26 Comments on this post

  1. Diane gibson says:

    I suffer finding a comfortable bra as I also have had a mastectomy and need a firm bra with pockets. Any ideas

  2. Beth says:

    As a lingerie fit specialist, depending on your size and specific sensitive areas; I would suggest trying Wacoal red carpet strapless, Wacoal perfect fit non-underwire t-shirt bra, Spanx bra-lelujah front closure, or Amoena post surgery bras available at Nordstrom

  3. Can anybody help me with a bra. I am 74 and am a 40 H cup. I have to wear a bra because I look so terrible without one, but the pain in my back is just awful. I live in NZ and there is not the selection of bras available in other countries. I am wondering about a posture bra and a front closing bra. Would be So grateful for any help.
    Christine L

    • Susan says:

      Christine, this is what I wear and it comes in 40H. Padded straps are adjustable; cubs are lined with a soft fabric that wicks away sweat; side panels are breathable; larger sizes (band and/or cup) have sets of 4 hooks for the wide back; several different colour choices; stretchy band to help you set hooks and then roll the bra so the hooks are at the back. No front closure, as those don’t seem to come with larger cups. I am an I or J cup, so know what it’s like to want some real support. I have both CFS and FM diagnosis.

    • Michele says:

      Do you have a Big W near you? I recently found they carry a huge range of 36+ band sizes and D,DD, E, F, G, and H cups – I found a full coverage bra with no wire in it with wide shoulder straps that doesn’t seem to dig too much – I got a 40F in it and it’s great for errands and sitting around the house – haven’t tried it with a more dressy look. Just a thought from oz.

  4. joann says:

    all I want is a bra that’s supportive, doesn’t itch, doesn’t dig in, pinch, doesn’t poke through your clothes and easy to put on and off. thanks for the suggestions, I will try them

  5. Dawn says:

    I would love to find something I can actually wear- at a size 52D, I am a unique size already, but fibromyalgia has led to my back going into full spasm if my bra is on for more than 2 hours. At my size, I can’t go around in public without one. I also tend to be very hot so fabric is a big issue. Throw in disability income and 99% of my options are gone. I just want to control the sway when I walk or laugh… I think part of the problem for people with fibro is that some of the trigger points are on the back where the band usually sits.

  6. Sonya E says:

    I have had Fibromyalgia for 16 years and when I am at home I prefer not to wear a bra because the shoulder area is one of my main trigger points. I have found that bras with thin straps works best for me when I go out, this includes sports bras as well. Victoria Secrets Demi bras works well for me but for those with financial constraints I have also purchased t-shirt bras and they provide some comfort.

  7. Yadyra Marrero says:

    I bought the Genie bras with the removable cups in med,large and as the body changes so has the size. I recently purchased them in xl. They dont dig, dont pinch,dont have wires, tags or metal. So far im able to survive 10 hrs with it on. :)

    • Michele says:

      I recently found Genie as well and have to wear the XL to have a loose enough band and enough room for my unmissable girls lol. Love it so far, had it a couple months. Wish I could adjust the shoulder bands though, they are a smidge too tight on my giant shoulders. Love that I can’t feel the seams digging into me though, makes the day a lot better.

  8. SG Fitzpatrick says:

    23 years with Fibro, was in my last year of University when I realized, “This cold is SO not going away!” I feel like I should be able to write a book by now, but mainly it would just be a few really big letters saying, “Hope that you have parents who will let you live with them while you fight for and lose a war with Disability” or “Hope the man you married can swing with this, and since I got sick first and took myself ‘off the market’, I can’t really help here either, so just hope for the parents thing!”:)
    I am and have always been, it seems, a 34B. I’ve also, even before I (And i realize that a LOT of us look back and see Fibro symptoms even in childhood) I was old enough to wear a bra, I was always fidgety when I wore a tube top (the elasticy, groovy, ones from the 1970s,) and they just freaking hurt.

    Bras were tough too, I ended up going up a size in the band part, to a 36, but then the cups were too big. Argh! Why a B is not the same size in every band, number, whatever that is – that is a silly, silly mystery.

    After years of buying every bra on the market (I have a vast collection of un-worns, they look like lovely boob art in my only organized drawer, I even keep perfume samples from magazines with them, tho’ I am allergic) I ended up finding a **36A*** at Dillards 10 years ago. No underwire, still have it, wish I knew the brand. But I guess what my point really is is Try *Lots* Of Things. I wear camis a lot (have one on right now!) under shirts, but I like a little breast hoike. (You know, hoike those girls up!) When I actually wear my bra, I always marvel that I do indeed still look like a woman. Which cheers me up a bit. :) Yay!

    Something to remember, sweet people who are going through this crapola, we have trigger points ALL OVER our chests and backs, so if your bra hurts, be sure it’s not just mercilessly digging into one of those. I thought I had a lump once on a breast self-check, & it was a knotted trigger point thing. But do keep checking! And just be so kind and forgiving to yourself. This illness sucks and we have to do what we can to stay us. So try a band size bigger, you might need to go down a size or so on the cup, and while I did pretty well with underwire in one bra, I don’t now, but that could still work. TRY ON as many as you can w/o getting too tired to make it home. (I order everything on line, 36A is tricky to find, but VS usually has that size & Dillards) Hang in! You are not alone!! <3

    • Erin says:

      You can also order directly through Wacoal,Chantelle or Calvin klien. Chantelle is my favorite they have soft silky inlays, but still have fantastic lift.Dillard’s and Nordstrom have the best size selection and they have big sales in January and June/July. I am a certified fitter and have been for about 10 years. Usually they have a representative for those companies during special events and will work with people who doesn’t have access to stores,by just contacting them.

  9. Marie H says:

    Thank you so much for this entry! I’ve had fibromyalgia for 11 years now, and have problems with all clothing, especially when I”m flaring. I’d never heard of a vanishing back bra, so thanks for that info. I was fitted for a bra professionally last year. Wearing the right bra has made SO much difference. For anyone who hasn’t done so and has bra discomfort, please try it. I have noticed that a well fitting bra with a tight feel is more comfortable than anything. Further, a properly fit underwire bra’s wires fit without poking the wearer uncomfortably.
    I’ve been sewing sine I was 5 (my mom was a home ec teacher), so I’m now investigating making my own bras and lingerie. In answer to Becky Magson’s question, the bra making industry doesn’t believe a front-close bra will provide the proper support.

  10. Becky Magson says:

    I often write about my fibromyalgia on my blog.

    I wear a GG – H cup and no brand seems to make bras front fastening for the larger busted. (If anyone knows of any, I’d love to hear!)

    I generally wear the next band up available, so being 29″ I wear 30 bands mostly. Lately I invested in several bra extenders and it’s helped immensely with comfort as I allows for more room depending on pain level.

    I’m interested in looking into what non wired bras are available because often I just can’t deal with the sensation of wires.

    Thanks for the post. :)

    Becky x

    • Erin says:

      Chantelle C-magnifique goes to an H average, 30 can be hard to find in store so ask clerk for Chantelle reps email, and she will help you out if not , I have my contacts.

  11. CarrieRae says:

    I’ve had Fibro for 10 years… I can’t believe that! For me it all comes down to wearing the right size bra. Nothing fancy. No push ups for sure. I mostly live in mild to moderate support sports bras though despite my 36DD size. The straps don’t dig and there are no closures to irritate me. Once I find something good I wear it until it falls apart. Comfort is really the key so finding something with a soft comfortable fabric with no irritating seams or closures seals the deal for me.

  12. Rika McLean says:

    I still have problems finding a bra since I am small framed with a D cup. Can’t find a 34D in most stores so have had to go braless. Sports bras cause pain from my advanced degenerative disc disease in my neck and the straps from wireless bras increase the pain from pinched nerves in my arms. I have been severely cut from wires so have vowed never to wear them again. The problem with front closures is that I have no space between the breasts and a narrow chest with the bust carrying under the arms as well. It is difficult to find a bra that can help with support and be comfortable to wear. Any solution suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    • Evia says:

      Have you tried clothing with built-in lining and light support in a halterneck version?

      I spend an awful load of time by the computer and something like that really helps. I’m not a 34D though, so I wear it around the house for modesty purposes, but it really does alleviate pain and bruising.

    • Deb Backus says:

      I feel your pain! No…I mean that I actually feel your pain! I have both Fibro and the neck/arm issues that you talked about. I cannot find a bra and although the young lady below tried to help, the idea of a halter top pulling on our neck would be excruciating! I cannot wear bras unless absolutely necessary. I tend to wear “layers” to cover my assets but this is something I cannot seem to find a good answer for!

  13. Avigayil says:

    Might I suggest the Soma Vanishing Back Full Coverage Front Close Bra? It has a very wide back, a front closure, and front adjustable straps.
    ^ horribly long link but it should take you to the bra. I have not tried it myself, just remembered it being in Soma when I visited the store.

  14. Jessica Louise says:

    Oh excellent!
    I’ve been experimenting with wearing corsets for pain management too… As I wore them frequently before my condition appeared/got worse.
    I’ve found that the constant slight pressure has helped to relieve a significant amount of the pain, especially when I am at work.
    As the corset (and liner) are evenly distributing the pressure throughout my whole underbust/tummy area, it also eliminates small things like pants buttons pressing into me, which makes life a lot easier!
    It seems a bit crazy that I can’t stand a button or bra straps, but can wear a corset…
    My doctor thinks this could “just be” a mental thing as I find a corset to be quite comforting in general, but if mind-over-matter has gotten me this far, I’m not letting go of my little security blanket! (even if I do have to get someone else to lace me up when I can’t move my arms!) :)

    As far as bras go, on really bad flare days I’ve been going with a backless adhesive bra, especially now that I’ve found some that are fabric-covered and not just the silicone/rubber/”chicken fillet” style, which works well for me as my breasts are on the small side.

    I’ve also found that with a “real bra” – the wider the band, the better the comfort. I admit though, I haven’t been properly fitted for a while now as the last time I tried to explain my situation to the fitter she was very rude and I’m a bit too anxious to go back! (think eye-rolling sarcasm and overhearing her telling the salesgirl I needed to “suck it up and jut buy the damn bra”)

    Thank you so much for thinking of us with this post!

    And keep fighting it, ladies! <3

  15. Corsets might sound counter intuitive but I’ve been experimenting for the past month and find that they are amazing with my fibromyalgia. There is no single pressure point with an over the bust, real steel boned corset, like the ones from Orchard corset. The gentle squeeze distributed the length of my torso has helped me in a number of ways that I’m beginning to document on my website My upper back and neck sing the praises of the transfer of the weight of my bust from this highly sensitive area to my torso. :)

  16. I’m so glad you wrote this article Donyae!

    I have been a Fibro Fighter for a few years now…which doesn’t make a lingerie addiction easy! I don’t deny myself any lingerie that I want, BUT, I generally limit my use of underwire bras to when I am out of the house, opting for comfortable camis with in-built support…or nothing(!) when I am home. The bra truly does come off as soon as the front door is shut.

    During my worst flare-ups, my husband has had to dress me, including doing my bras up which can be disheartening. That’s why I still indulge in gorgeous (properly fitting) lingerie and make the most of it when I can…after all, anyone suffering with Fibromyalgia has to find pleasure in life where possible!

  17. Nathan says:

    My wife has Fibromyalgia and one of the big things that she looks for is the width of the band across the back. She likes them wider (prefers three hooks wide as opposed to only one or two) as they don’t cut into her back as much.

  18. Catherine says:

    Thank you so much for this. I mostly don’t wear bras because the pressure is too much with pain and sensitivity, but sometimes I have to for social reasons :)
    I’d also nominate the Lepel secret support loungewear/nightwear range for anyone who feels like they need some support/coverage most of the time but doesnt want to have to put a bra on always.

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