Breast reduction: Got a symptom? Cut it off!
As always, there may be a time and a place for most things, drastic surgery included. The vast majority of the time, not only is it unnecessary but it does not correct the primary cause of the condition. The question that must be asked and answered is “WHY is the symptom there in the first place?” Breast reduction surgery is commonly prescribed to reduce back pain. However, it’s important to determine whether or not increased breast size is the only and primary cause of the symptom of back pain.
Breast reduction surgery has one of the highest patient satisfaction ratings compared to all surgical operations.
The reason for this is that it is a very quick way to reduce the load being put on the spine. The problem is that it is not the ONLY and arguably no the primary reason for a pathologically increased mechanical load on the spine which causes pain. Breast reduction surgery quickly removes symptoms but leaves abnormal spinal shifts still in place with no improvement. Yes, there is less weight bearing down on the spine, which is why the pain often quickly lessens. However, any abnormal shifts in the spine that were potentially a significant reason for the back pain, have not been addressed.
You could argue that breast reduction surgery would change and improve any abnormal curves in the spine but the research does not support this presumption as seen in a 2013 study: The Effect of Reduction Mammaplasty on the Vertebral Column: A Radiologic Study. According to this study
“…reduction mammaplasty operations seem to have little or no radiologic effect…”
Even after a year, there was no change in the patients’ spinal structure as measured by x-ray. So why did they feel better right away? It’s easy to make someone feel better when you reduced the amount of weight affecting the spine. If you take enough fat off of some one’s body they will likely feel better if that excess weight is combined with an abnormal shift in their spine. A normal spinal structure is going to be able to withstand a great deal more weight and stress than a spinal that is shifted out of place. The reason for this can be understood when considering basic biomechanics and physics. Essentially, a spinal shift creates a longer lever so even patients without excess weight have a high likely hood of having too much stress or pressure on the spine.
Think of it like this.
Move your head forward three inches. You know look like you have a classic hunchback, gooseneck, computer nerd, that is so common in our culture, especially as we age. You all know what it looks like. If you don’t, it will literally take you less than five minutes to spot someone that has this posture, young or old, anywhere you find people. Now that you have put your head in the position, leave it there or five minutes. Notice how the muscles in your neck begin to hurt and tire very quickly. Your head is not any heavier but because of it being shift forward, where it is not designed to be, the muscles have to work harder and are now under a great deal of strain. That strain is increased significantly with an additional weight.
Let’s assume that your cheeks were a common place for excess fat to be deposited (like the breasts are). It would be reasonable to assume that anyone with a lot of excess cheek fat would be more likely to experience neck pain with an abnormal forward head posture (Anterior Head Syndrome) when compared to someone with Anterior Head Syndrome and no excess cheek fat.
In the same way, it is common sense that removing that excess cheek fat would reduce the neck pain despite not addressing the Anterior Head Syndrome. Yes, the neck pain is gone, for now, but the primary condition has not been addressed and in fact is less likely to be addressed because the warning signal is now gone.
Abnormal spinal shifts that do not cause pain still must be addressed just like obesity that doesn’t have any obvious symptoms should still be addressed. Obesity increases your risk for a myriad of diseases like cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes. Just because the symptoms obesity or and abnormal spine are changed by drugs or surgery does not mean that you are healthier. You may have large breasts that are caused by obesity, abnormal hormones, or that are normal. Getting them surgically reduced may make you feel a lot better but it may also be helping you to ignore other serious problems.