Breast Reduction Surgery: A Remedy That Works
While physical therapy, ergonomic changes, and even pain medication are often a woman's first line of defense, doctors agree that the only sure way to alleviate symptoms is with breast reduction surgery.
"Large breasts pose a clear and recognizable health problem and nothing works better than surgery: not losing weight, not physical therapy, not pain medication," says Jewell.
And women seem to agree. In studies published in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery a group of Swedish doctors wrote that women who had the surgery reported significant improvement in all areas of pain and discomfort.
According to the ASAPS, in 2004 more than 144,000 breast reduction surgeries were performed in the U.S. alone -- an increase of more than 200% since 1997.
How It Works
The operation itself can be performed in a variety of different ways but all techniques have the same goal: Removal of a pound or more of tissue and fat cells from each breast, and then cutting away the resulting excess skin. While in some instances the nipple must also be removed and repositioned, doctors say this procedure has become increasingly rare.
And while the surgery can take up to three hours and always requires general anesthesia, doctors say it is a safe procedure with a fast recovery.
"Since all we are doing is taking out skin and superficial tissue, and not moving any muscles or organs, there is little danger and very little postoperative pain," says Michael Zenn, MD, an associate professor of plastic surgery at Duke University Medical Center.
Indeed, Zenn reports that most women experience only a mild discomfort for a day or two after surgery, and most go back to work within a week. In two weeks he says you can be back to all normal activity, including gym workouts.
"Women are always surprised at how little pain is associated with this surgery. They always expect much more than what it causes," Zenn tells WebMD.