Can We Talk About Bras?

Allodynia, or “central pain sensitization,” can make regular, everyday sensations feel painful. It's a part of living with migraine for many people, and it can turn ponytails, wool sweaters, and ill-fitting socks into an all-out assault on the body, even between attacks.

The beginning of my chronic migraine

When my adventures with chronic migraine began, getting dressed after a warm shower was often an intensely uncomfortable event. Putting on my favorite skinny jeans and what was previously a perfectly comfortable, well-fitting bra would make me feel like Mama Bear trying to squeeze into Goldilocks' pajamas. Within minutes, I would collapse on the bed, sweating and bracing myself for a tidal wave of nasty, no-good migraine symptoms.

Where am I now?

Years later, with better all-around management of the disease through medication and helpful daily habits, I rarely experience such intense sensations from the mere act of getting dressed. But - for me at least - the bra is still a nagging source of much discomfort, and so continues the never-ending search to find a bra that my hypersensitive brain can ignore.

The trouble with wearing a bra

Here's a breakdown of my bra issues:

  • Underwire: NEVER. AGAIN. I've tried these on but never bought one. I found them excruciating even in my pre-migraine days.
  • Rib-Crushing Elastic Bands: To stay in place, the band that goes around the torso needs to be somewhat snug. Although I doubt my breathing is physically restricted by the bra, when I feel a migraine coming on at home and whip it off it's as if my lungs have just been released from an Elizabethan whalebone corset. Not cool.
  • The Itchy Scratchies: Most bras seem to always have some scratchy material on the inside of the clasp or straps. Why?? I only notice this when my migraine symptoms get revved up, but it's another reason whipping the bra off is so satisfying.
  • Strap Pressure: Again, in order for a bra to stay in place and do what it does, it has to be a bit snug. When my traps are aching and the pain starts, those snug-fitting bra straps feel like they are deliberately egging on the shoulder and neck pain.
  • Bandeau: Band-no. With no straps, the bandeau seems like a comfy idea in theory, but go about my normal day for three minutes, with rubber non-slip seams or not, that thing is either scrunched up under my armpits or hanging down around my belly button.
  • Bralette: This is the best solution I have found yet. Being relatively flat-chested, I can get away with a sports-type bra made of the same layer of stretchy material. The straps still give me grief sometimes, and the shape is rarely as flattering as something more structured.
  • Nipples on Display: Clearly the logical answer is to just go without. While I admire the bra-burning hippies, I was raised in a culture that is just not encouraging of the loosey-goosey look, and I feel a bit exposed leaving the house without my most hated undergarment.

What are your bra suggestions?

Of all the things migraine brings our way, one little undergarment may seem trivial, but I'm determined to find comfort wherever possible in this life with too much pain.

Do you also deal with this discomfort? What solutions have you found? (Really, I must know.)

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