Cosmetic Surgery Tips

Breast Reduction for Kyphosis

Kyphosis is a spinal deformity that causes the shoulders and the upper back to angle forward, resulting in a very sunken-in appearance in the chest area. In addition to physical discomfort, it can also cause clothing to fit poorly, making it difficult for patients to wear items like t-shirts and tank tops without showing their protruding bones. This makes breast reduction surgery one of the most common surgeries performed on women over the age of 15, along with liposuction.

In this article, we will consider what disqualifies you from a breast reduction and degenerative disc disease and breast reduction.

Breast Reduction Surgery

Breasts and Your Back: Why Breast Size Can Affect Back Pain

Large breasts can cause chronic neck and back pain. Consider breast reduction for back pain relief if that’s what’s causing your pain.

When it comes to women and back pain, most people think about the standard reasons for discomfort: injury or accidents, physical work, active sports lifestyles, and similar factors that often cause back pain in both men and women. But there is an issue that is specific to women: breast size. Large breasts can cause headaches, postural issues, neck pain, upper and lower back pain, and even physical abnormalities caused by overloaded bra straps.Breast reduction for back pain

Will a breast reduction help with back pain? Possibly, say our experts.

The condition known as macromastia or breast hypertrophy is frequently observed in women, and while many women don’t have issues with having large breasts, others find it to be difficult and even painful. Problems caused by large breasts include chronic pain in the neck, back and shoulders; nerve pain; problems performing activities; poor posture; and even psychological issues.

So what can be done?


How Back Pain from Large Breasts Happens

Most women don’t jump directly to breast reduction surgery, often because they don’t readily associate having large breasts with the cause of their spinal pain. According to Peter G. Whang, MD, FACS, FAAOS, a board-certified orthopaedic spine surgeon and an Associate Professor in the Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation at the Yale University School of Medicine, there is a correlation to be considered.

“It certainly makes sense from a biomechanical point of view that women with large breasts may be predisposed to having increased pain in the thoracolumbar spine because of their abnormal posture,” he explains. “As a result of the added weight, [large breasts] can cause an individual to flex forward (i.e., become kyphotic), which subjects the spinal column and other supporting structures to significant, non-physiologic forces.”

“Additionally,” says Dr. Whang, “the stabilizing muscles in your back have to work overtime to keep your spine aligned, which results in increased stresses and fatigue.” Sheri Dewan, MD, a board-certified neurosurgeon at Northwestern Medicine Regional Medical Group, agrees. “Typically, hypertrophic breast tissue can cause a number of issues involving posture, muscular pain related to strain in the [shoulder area], and increased gravitational force that may all contribute to spinal discomfort or disorders.”

That’s right—gravity itself is part of the problem. “Many women can actually have large breasts that weigh several pounds [each],” says Michael Howard, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon at Northwestern who specializes in microsurgical breast reconstruction. “In the course of a day with just the natural force of gravity, that pull and that gravity has to be displaced somewhere or supported somewhere.”

That somewhere is in the muscles of the back, as Dr. Howard continues to explain. “If you think of the breast as a weight that is hanging out from the front of the body, the body has to counteract that weight to keep from tipping the woman over. It’s just a like a teeter-totter—there’s a balance. So you’ve got to put force on the body in the opposite direction to counteract that several pounds of force pulling you forward. When you have that force puling you back, that’s your back muscles that are working overtime to really counterbalance the weight.”


Conservative Treatment   

Most doctors agree that non-operative treatments are the first line of defense. “The majority of individuals who present with pain associated with larger breasts will experience symptomatic relief with conservative treatments,” explains Dr. Whang.

Dr. Dewan also believes a conservative approach is the best place to begin. “I typically start with conservative treatments including physical therapy for stability strengthening and other modalities including ice/heat/moist heat. In addition, aquatherapies can be beneficial.”

But conservative treatment isn’t always the answer. “I have certainly had to refer several individuals to plastic surgeons for consideration of breast reduction,” says Dr. Whang.

While Dr. Whang has seen success with breast reduction surgery, he advises seeking more professional advice first. “The decision to proceed with breast reduction also requires the input of a plastic surgeon to ensure that this procedure is indeed the most appropriate treatment for a particular individual.”

Lower Back Pain After Breast Reduction


Breast Reduction for Back Pain

Breast reduction surgery, also called reduction mammoplasty, is becoming more common—“one of the most commonly requested and most predictably successful plastic surgery procedures,” says Dr. Bethanne Snodgrass, MD, on the website of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). In fact, according to the ASPS 2019 Plastic Surgery Statistics Report, more than 46,000 reduction mammoplasties were performed in 2019, an increase over 2018. And a great many of those surgeries were for back pain.

“Having seen several hundred breast reduction operations…overwhelmingly, every woman comes in with some degree of shoulder, neck, and back pain. It is universally common to women with large breasts,” says Dr. Howard.

When it comes to the decision to have breast reduction surgery, it’s important to know what is and isn’t possible. “I think the most important part of breast reduction surgery starts from the very first moment that I am meeting the patient, and that is expectation setting from the outset,” Dr Howard continues. “If a patient has the right expectations for the surgery, then success is almost guaranteed in this.”

Dr. Howard adds that the “vast majority of patients” see improvement of their symptoms. “So when you set that expectation ahead of time, then they go into it with a realistic look,” he says.

The surgery itself is generally outpatient, done under general anesthesia. Your surgeon will meet with you before the surgery and mark on the skin where incisions will be made. The surgery takes around 2-3 hours in operating room, with a full recovery time of about 3-4 weeks on average. Your surgeon will use techniques to decrease breast volume—the reduction—but also to ensure pleasing aesthetic results and good breast function following surgery. That includes sensation and circulation in the nipples and even the ability to breastfeed after having the surgery.

There is also something of a lift effect after surgery, which in and of itself helps reduce back pain and back issues. For most women, according to Dr. Howard, “the breast ends up narrower, tighter, and lifted, and then obviously smaller in volume…you’re going to have less strain on the back.”


Satisfied Patients and Post-Surgical Outcomes

Breast reduction surgery results in one of the most satisfied patient populations, says the ASPS: “Patient satisfaction rates after breast reduction are very high, and it is the rare patient who will not experience significant relief of her symptoms after surgery.”

Published medical studies have found similar results. A 2019 study in the journal Plastic and Reconstruction Surgery – Global Open stated “Reduction mammaplasty [sic] produces an unmistakable improvement in signs, symptoms, and quantifiable measures [in spinal angles, posture, center of gravity, and back pain reduction].” A 2020 study in European Spine Journal said, “The evidence gleaned suggests that [reduction mammoplasty] reduces the prevalence of back pain in patients with large breasts.”

If you are a woman with large breasts who has back, neck, and shoulder pain, problems with posture, or similar concerns, talk with your doctor about whether speaking with a plastic surgeon may be right for you. Your doctor and your surgeon can also help you speak with your health insurance company to get them to cover the surgery. After all, in these kinds of cases, it’s not aesthetics. It’s treatment.

What Disqualifies You From A Breast Reduction

Hello, and thanks for posing that question. All of your questions and concerns can be answered by Dr. Monasebian, our Board Certified Plastic Surgeon. It would be impossible for him to review your medical records and examine you without first seeing you in person. You could be an excellent candidate for breast reduction. If you’re going to be in or near New York City, we’d love to meet you. Consultation with your insurance company is recommended to determine whether or not the procedure is covered by your policy. We hope to finally meet you soon.

Regards, Park Avenue Plastic Surgery, led by Dr. Monasebian.

Although your bra size is large and you may have spinal deformities as seen on an MRI, you did not report any discomfort as a result of your breast augmentation. If you’re considering a breast reduction but aren’t sure if you’re a good candidate or if your insurance will cover the procedure, speaking with a Board Certified plastic surgeon is your best bet. Sending you the best of luck!

Hi! Regarding your inquiry, I appreciate it. You might want to investigate other potential causes of your back pain. It is recommended that you consult with a neurologist or spine surgeon to discuss the findings of your MRI. Insurance companies that cover breast reductions will typically look at your height and weight to determine how many breast grams must be removed during the procedure before they will consider it “medically necessary.” Depending on your specific health coverage, the answer may be different. You can find out if you are a good candidate for a breast reduction based on the requirements and your body habitus when you consult with a board certified plastic surgeon. I wish you the best of luck!

Hello. An in-person consultation is the best way to get an answer to your question of whether or not you are a good candidate for a breast reduction. Speaking as a female plastic surgeon who has performed numerous breast reductions, I can tell you that the insurance company’s decision to cover such a procedure depends on a number of factors. The reason you got an MRI in the first place, the symptoms you’ve been experiencing, and the treatment you’ve already undergone are all things we’ll need to talk about. Having lumbar back disease is neither a prerequisite nor a contraindication to having breast reduction surgery. If you’re interested in discussing breast reduction surgery and whether or not it will be covered by your insurance, please get in touch with me. We are experts at assisting patients and their families in understanding and navigating the system.

Ms. Samara Churgin, M.D.

Location: New York City’s Manhattan

Degenerative Disc Disease And Breast Reduction

The best candidates for breast reduction surgery are healthy women who are either not smokers or are willing and able to quit before the procedure. Many women consider breast reduction surgery because they have:

  • Shoulder marks made by bra straps.
  • Loss of breast firmness and skin elasticity.
  • Ovary enlargement.
  • Low-set breasts, where the areola and nipple are located below the breast fold.
  • Inflammation caused by yeast or fungus in the breast crease that persists over time.
  • Physical activity is limited.
  • Fewer clothes to choose from.
  • Self-consciousness.

Methods for Breast Reduction Surgery

I will consult with each patient individually to figure out the most effective method for breast reduction. The keyhole pattern lift is my go-to because it produces consistent outcomes and can be tailored to meet a wide variety of needs.

The circumareolar lift has gained popularity among plastic surgeons because it requires only a scar in that area (around the nipple). However, a large scar is the result of lifting the breast in this manner because the weight of the breast is suspended from a narrow section of the upper incision. Over time, the nipple tends to get bigger, and the shape starts to look less natural.

Creating a flap from the nipple to reposition the breast is another option, but I’ve given up on that strategy because it can cause localized nerve damage. All of my patients should keep feeling in their nipples.

When I sew, I always use three layers of absorbable sutures. The scars from these incisions are barely visible because they were protected with steri- strips for a full six weeks. Pictures of post-surgery scarring are provided below.

What Kind of Pain Can I Expect From Breast Reduction?

Patients undergoing a breast reduction under general anesthesia feel no discomfort because the brain is unable to register pain. Those who have recently undergone surgery should prepare for a period of discomfort lasting several weeks. The first few days after surgery are the most painful. When this occurs, it’s time to take some painkillers to make sure you feel as good as possible without experiencing any unpleasant effects. Generally speaking, most people feel considerably better after the first week of recovery, though some degree of mild soreness may last for another two to three weeks. It’s possible that this later-stage soreness is comparable to the muscle fatigue one might feel after exercise and can be managed without the use of pain medication.

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