It's a myth that plastic surgery is for cosmetic purposes only. Some plastic surgeries can dramatically improve a person's quality of life, and breast reduction surgery (aka reduction mammoplasty) is a perfect example.
In fact, it has one of the highest patient satisfaction ratings among plastic surgery procedures, according to Umbareen Mahmood, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon in New York City.
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During breast reduction surgery, your surgeon removes breast tissue, fat and skin to reduce overall breast size and improve certain physical symptoms, per the Cleveland Clinic. Many people notice positive changes immediately after surgery, Dr. Mahmood says.
A breast reduction is often a life-changing surgery; many people say they only regret that they didn't do it sooner, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
There are lots of reasons to consider the procedure, most of which revolve around medical benefits. "Breast reduction surgery can benefit women of many ages," says Anna Steve, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon and breast specialist in New York City. "The benefits are functional, aesthetic, psychological and emotional."
Here are some of the top perks of breast reduction surgery, according to board-certified plastic surgeons who perform the procedure frequently.
A Note on Language
Here at LIVESTRONG.com, we believe sex and gender are spectrums, and people with many different gender identities may undergo breast reduction surgery. We typically avoid terms that imply sex and gender binaries in favor of gender-inclusive language, unless it appears in a primary source or quote.
1. Less Chronic Back, Neck and Shoulder Pain
"The most obvious benefits of breast reduction include dramatic improvement of chronic pain and tension in the upper back, neck and shoulders," Dr. Steve says. That's because less breast tissue to lug around means less wear and tear on the surrounding bones and muscles.
It certainly helps that excess weight is removed, Dr. Steve says, but it's also thanks to your surgeon repositioning your breast tissue and nipples. "Breast reduction is always done in conjunction with a breast lift (also known as mastopexy), which repositions the nipples closer to your body," she explains. "Just as it is easier to carry heavy objects when they are closer to your body's core, it is also easier to carry the weight of your breasts when they sit closer to your center of gravity."
Heavy breasts can cause uncomfortable shoulder grooves from bras and ill-fitting clothing, which is also improved by breast reduction surgery.
2. Fewer Headaches
Disproportionately large breasts are linked to frequent headaches and nerve problems that can cause numbness or tingling in the hands and arms, according to Yale Medicine.
Fortunately, a breast reduction may help with these symptoms, says Peter Lee, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon in Los Angeles. "Some individuals with very large breasts may experience chronic headaches and tingling sensations in the neck and upper back due to nerve compression or poor blood circulation," he says. "Breast reduction surgery can relieve this pressure through reducing breast size, potentially leading to a reduction in headaches and tingling sensations."
The link between large breasts and headaches isn't well studied, but some preliminary results support this theory. Among patients who experienced headaches, about 65 percent reported relief following breast reduction surgery, per a small June 2021 study in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal.
3. Improved Skin Irritation and Rashes
Areas of skin that touch other skin are breeding grounds for bacteria and prime real estate for irritation and infections. Your armpits are a good example of this, but so is the breast fold where the underside of large breasts touch your torso.
"Skin irritation, including rashes and fungal infections, can occur under large breasts," says Alexis Parcells, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon in Eatontown, New Jersey. "Breast reduction surgery removes excessive tissue and skin while lifting the breasts, allowing the skin to heal and preventing future infections."
4. Increased Ability to Exercise
Large breasts can be an obstacle for exercise, daily activities and even weight management, Dr. Mahmood says. Many people with large breasts feel limited in their ability to move around and exercise comfortably. Heavy breasts can get in the way of certain exercises and reduce your range of motion.
"So many patients tell me they have to wear two sports bras, which even then are insufficient," she says. "They also struggle to maintain [a healthy] weight because of their large breasts and how cumbersome their breasts are when running, doing yoga, etc."
Even outside of the gym, heavy breasts can get in the way of your daily activities. "My patients discuss how they're unable to comfortably run after their kids, clean their house and other basic tasks," Dr. Mahmood says.
5. Better Posture and Spine Health
A small body of research has examined the effects of heavy breasts on spine health. While more research is needed, some studies suggest improvements in the angle of the spine after breast reduction, while others found no statistically significant change, according to an August 2019 review in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.
"Large breasts can contribute to poor posture and curvature of the spine, which may lead to long-term spinal problems," Dr. Lee says. "By reducing breast size, the surgery [may] help individuals maintain a more upright and balanced posture, potentially reducing the risk of future spinal issues."
6. Higher Self-Esteem and Confidence
Many of the benefits of breast reduction surgery relate to physical symptoms, but the procedure also has psychological and emotional benefits, because it can improve how a person feels about themselves and their body.
"Beyond the physical benefits, breast reduction surgery can have a profound impact on a woman's emotional wellbeing and self-confidence," Dr. Parcells says, adding that social anxiety and self-consciousness surrounding breast size are especially common among younger people with breasts. "After undergoing breast reduction, patients often report a boost in self-confidence and an improved body image."
Prior to getting the surgery, people with large breasts may feel restricted in the type of clothes they wear. They may fear unwanted attention from strangers, and they may struggle to find bras that fit properly. After a breast reduction, many have a newfound sense of freedom regarding the clothes they wear and how they feel in them.
"It is a privilege to help women gain the ability to live the life they want, and to see how confident they feel after the procedure," Dr. Mahmood says.
- American Society of Plastic Surgeons: "What is a breast reduction and what are the benefits of this procedure?"
- Yale Medicine: "Breast Reduction Surgery"
- Aesthetic Surgery Journal: "Frequency of Headaches in Macromastia Patients and Relief After Reduction Mammoplasty"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Basic Information About Breast Cancer"
- Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery: “The Effects of Breast Reduction on Back Pain and Spine Measurements: A Systematic Review”
- Cleveland Clinic: "Breast Reduction"
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