Breast practice: women's health and breast biomechanics

Breast biomechanics play a vital role in women’s health, says Joanna Scurr.

The lack of musculature in the breast and the weak intrinsic supporting structures mean that, without appropriate external support, breast movement is common during daily and sporting activities.

While the breast overlies the vital chest wall muscles of the pectoralis major and minor, the recognised supporting structures of the breast are the skin and the Cooper’s ligaments. The Cooper’s ligaments are thin fibrous bands that originate on the pectoralis fascia, dispersing throughout the breast, and attaching to the skin that encases the breast.

Excessive breast movement has a number of negative consequences.

  1. Movement-related breast pain has been reported in up to 72 per cent of females. This breast pain is thought to be caused by tension on the supporting structures of the breast.
  2. Repeated loading on the internal breast support may lead to irreversible breast sag.
  3. Breast movement and position is reported to influence functional movements such as standing, walking and running.
  4. It has been reported that breast movement causes embarrassment, deterring some women from participating in physical activity. In a recent study from the Research Group in Breast Health 17 per cent of women reported the breast as a barrier to exercise. These negative consequences are exaggerated as breast size increases. 

The Department of Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Portsmouth houses the Research Group in Breast Health, which I head. It is internationally renowned for research on the biomechanics of the breast. This group has been conducting fundamental and applied research into breast biomechanics for the last decade.

During this time, the breast biomechanics and breast comfort of thousands of women have been assessed, contributing to a unique database on the support requirements of the breast. The group developed and published the first method to establish dynamic breast movement in three dimensions. This procedure has then been applied to monitor the effectiveness of varying designs of breast support garments.

The group has worked with many of the major lingerie, sports bra and sporting apparel manufacturers around the world, with the aim of creating evidence-based products.

We are keen to collaborate with healthcare professionals and would be delighted to hear from you. Visit our site or email 

  • Professor Joanna Scurr is head of the research group in breast health at the Department of Sport and Exercise Science, University of Portsmouth.

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