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Can large breasts make it difficult to breath?

I was doing a post op consultation yesterday with a lady who had her breast reduction performed 2 weeks ago.

As we were talking about how she was feeling she told me one of the unexpected positive effects she had noticed was that she felt it was a whole lot easier to breath. She asked me whether other people had noticed this.

This is a more common observation than you may think. There is actually published research demonstrating that having overly large breasts dragging on your chest muscles and ribs actually does increase the work your body has to do to breath in and out.(1.)

Once your breasts are reduced and the excess weight of breast tissue is removed the effort required by your chest muscles and diaphragm to draw the breath in and expel it from your lungs is reduced. Not everyone who has a breast reduction will notice the change but you may be surprised how often women notice the difference.

To people not dealing with this issue of overly large breasts this might not seem like a big deal but when you think all of us breath in and out approximately 10 times a minute, every minute of every day for our whole lives reducing the work your body is doing simply to breath can make a really big difference to your daily life. Of course if you are trying to exercise your breathing rate will need to increase greatly from your resting rate. No wonder women often report feeling less tired following breast reduction surgery.

If you are interested in understanding the research in more detail I have listed the details of the research paper below. The research noted that it was the factors related to the "work of breathing" (inspiratory capacity, maximum voluntary ventilation and peak expiratory flow rate) which were improved following breast reduction procedures.

1. Effects of reduction mammoplasty on pulmonary function and symptoms of macromastia.
Authors: Sood R,Mount DL, Coleman JJ 3rd, Ranieri J, Sauter S, Mathur P, Thurston B.
Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery ,2003 Feb;111(2):688-94

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