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 pony tails, wool sweaters, and ill fitting socks into an all-out assault on the body, even between attacks.

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.

Years later, with better all-round 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.

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 actually stay in place, the band that goes around the torso needs to be somewhat snug. Although I doubt my breathing is actually 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, and 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 that is all made out 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 have been 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.Of all the things migraine brings our way, one little undergarment may seem like a trivial matter, but in this life with too much pain, I’m determined to find comfort wherever possible.Do you also deal with this discomfort? What solutions have you found? (Really, I must know.)

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