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Medically Reviewed by:

Robert Applebaum M.D.

What are the Symptoms of Needing a Breast Reduction?

Breast augmentation is the most popular surgical procedure according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, but another plastic surgery procedure that alters the breasts can have equally life changing results for women who need it: breast reduction. It might seem like everyone is trying to make their breasts larger, but women with large breasts often experience tremendous physical and emotional pain associated with their breasts. Women with large breasts, particularly those that droop and hang, experience physical and emotional issues including neck, shoulder and back pain, poor self-esteem and a lifetime of physical discomfort. People who don’t have large breasts might find it hard to believe that having a significant bosom can have a major impact on your daily life, but women with large breasts will tell you about their difficulty exercising, sleeping, and more. Breast reduction surgery offers a way for women with large breast size to eliminate the pain and inconvenience associated with their figures, but many women are not sure what symptoms indicate a need for breast reduction surgery.

What is breast reduction surgery?

Breast reduction surgery, sometimes called reduction mammaplasty, is a reconstructive surgical procedure with general anesthesia that decreases the size of the breasts by removing excess fat, breast tissue, and skin. The procedure involves surgical incisions, similar to a breast lift, and in some cases may utilize liposuction to remove the excess fat from the breasts. Dr. Applebaum performs breast reduction surgery using the lollipop breast reduction technique when possible, as it reduces scarring. The lollipop breast reduction technique uses one vertical incision from the bottom of the areola and one incision around the areola, and unlike with previous techniques, it does not require an incision along the bottom of the breast, helping to minimize scarring.

What are the symptoms of needing a breast reduction?

Breast reductions are performed for a variety of reasons, including both physical and emotional symptoms. If you experience any of the following symptoms as a result of your large breasts, a breast reduction surgery might help resolve your issues:

  • Chronic shoulder, back, and neck pain requiring pain medications
  • Grooves or marks on the shoulders from bra straps
  • Nerve pain
  • Poor self-image due to large breasts
  • Chronic rash or skin irritation underneath the breasts
  • Restricted activity due to large breasts, such as exercise
  • Difficulty fitting into bras and clothing
  • Poor posture due to the weight of large breasts
  • Difficulty sleeping due to discomfort from large breasts
  • Breasts that are noticeably unequal in size
  • Breasts that droop as a result of excess weight

Women with large breasts experience several of these symptoms. Depending on the nature of the symptoms, some health insurance companies may cover the cost of breast reduction surgery.

What are the benefits of breast reduction surgery?

The weight of large breasts can literally and figuratively rest heavily on a patient. Everyday activities like exercising, sitting upright, and sleeping can be difficult or impossible. Breast reduction surgery instantly eliminates a great deal of physical pain associated with large breasts, including back, neck, or shoulder pain, discomfort while exercising, and shoulder grooves. Breast reduction surgery allows many women to feel more confident about their bodies and wearing certain outfits in public, and this boost in confidence is an important emotional benefit. There are also many cosmetic benefits to breast reduction surgery, including:

  • Breasts are lifted and firmer, thus appearing more youthful
  • A more proportionate and balanced silhouette
    Large or stretched areolas and nipples can be reduced during the procedure
  • Ease of finding comfortable and attractive bras, swimsuits, sports bras, and clothing

What type of recovery is expected after breast reduction surgery?

The recovery required after breast reduction surgery varies depending on the technique that is used. Dr. Applebaum prefers to use the lollipop breast reduction technique for patients who need a moderate or smaller reduction because it has a comparatively shorter recovery time. The lollipop breast reduction technique usually does not require the use of a drain, which reduces post-op pain, and there is less swelling and bruising associated with this technique. Recovery from a lollipop breast reduction allows most patients to return to work and their normal daily routine within three to seven days after surgery, and scarring is minimal because only extra skin is removed. Women who need a larger breast reduction or have breasts that sag or droop significantly may use a more traditional technique called an “inverted-T” or “anchor” breast reduction that requires the placement of drains under the arms, which allows excess blood and fluid to be drained from the body. In the first days following the surgery, the breasts will feel tender and may be swollen or bruised. Physical activity such as exercise or heavy lifting is limited for two to four weeks while the breasts heal.

Who is a good candidate for a breast reduction?

The best candidates for breast reduction are women who experience the physical pain or emotional symptoms associated with large breasts and want to resolve these issues. Breast reduction surgery can be performed at any age, but teenagers who have the surgery before their breasts are fully developed may need a second surgery later. Women who are planning to have children should consider postponing breast reduction surgery until after their last pregnancy, as breasts increase and decrease in size during pregnancy, and breast reduction may impact a woman’s ability to breastfeed. Women who are interested in losing a significant amount of weight should also consider waiting to have breast reduction surgery, as weight loss can cause changes to the size and shape of the breasts. Patients who smoke, have certain medical conditions like diabetes or heart issues, are very obese, or do not want scars on their breasts should generally avoid breast reduction surgery.

Will my health insurance cover my breast reduction surgery?

Due to the physical pain associated with large breasts, breast reduction surgery can sometimes be covered by health insurance. Following your consultation, Dr. Applebaum will submit the necessary information to determine if insurance coverage can be obtained for this surgery. Insurance companies consider the amount of estimated grams of tissue the surgeon anticipates removing, along with the height and weight of the patient, and some carriers look for a history of physical therapy treatments for neck and back pain. Dr. Applebaum prepares a pre-authorization letter along with photographs for each patient, and the insurance company usually responds within a two to four week period.

Medically reviewed by Dr. Robert Applebaum

Dr. Robert Applebaum is a world renowned and highly respected Plastic Surgeon who is Board Certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. In his nearly 30 years as a practicing physician, Dr. Applebaum has become known as an innovator in the field of laser technology techniques for plastic surgery procedures. He has published numerous articles and scientific papers about the use of laser technology and educates physicians worldwide on the applications of laser technology for plastic surgery. Dr. Applebaum primarily practices out of his private outpatient surgery center, Four Thirty Six Aesthetic Surgery Center, which is located in Beverly Hills.


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