When I was in my mid-twenties, I had a breast augmentation. Several years later, my breast augmentation left me literally crippled in a wheelchair. My body has healed since having the implants removed. I am sharing my story today as a way to raise awareness of the potentially harmful effects that breast implants can have on the body. 
The information I am sharing in this article is based on my personal experience. I am not offering scientific evidence or medically proven research. I do not believe that breast implants are bad across the board. I have never seen or encountered anyone that had the level of adverse side effects that I had, so in no way am I claiming that implants will leave another person in a wheelchair like they did to me. My body reacted the way that it did, and from that experience I gained a lot of insight into how the human body works, and into how breast implants impact the body's physiological systems. Today, my life’s mission is to share what I have learned so that others can learn from my experiences as well.

The Downward Spiral

All through my teens and early twenties I was very active and fit. As a smaller-framed woman with small breasts, the leaner I got, the smaller my breasts became. I always loved having a lean athletic physique, but did not love my flat chest. When I was in my mid-twenties, I made the choice to get breast implants, and I loved how they made me look. It was like I could now have the best of both worlds. I was lean and athletic and had full breasts that looked great in all of my clothes. It was like a dream come true that left me with a whole new sense of confidence and pride in my body.
I never imagined that breast implants could change the way that my body functioned, but problems started within six months of getting the implants. First, I sprained my knee jumping rope in the gym. I had never had an injury like this before, and I attributed it to muscle weakness after taking time off to recover from the breast implant surgery. 
The three years after having my implants were a gradual downward spiral in my health. My knee pain became chronic. I also began to suffer from regular low back pain. I had never had any type of lower back pain and still made no connection to my implants being the culprit. As I accumulated more chronic pain and injuries, I became less and less active. 
A routine three-mile jog around my neighborhood was the beginning of the end of my physical activity. I felt a strange pulling sensation in my left hip, so I stopped to stretch, but the sensation never went away. Over the next year, my life became a living hell. My hip problem escalated to debilitating pain that left me unable to walk and reliant on crutches or a wheelchair for six months. 
I was desperate for a solution. I consulted with more than twenty doctors, orthopedic surgeons, chiropractors, and physical therapists. I even had surgery on my hip in January of 2010 with a specialist that was located two hours from my home town.
Maryann Berry Pelvis x-ray
An x-ray of my pelvis from when I still had implants shows a clear misalignment.

Rock Bottom to Recovery

When I didn’t get better after surgery, I hit rock bottom. I was unable to work, and I had spent my last penny on medical expenses. My relationships with my friends and family were strained by the amount of help I needed to do anything. I was in a doctor's office nearly every day for three months to try and figure out what was wrong with me. I was ready to snap. Living life with chronic hip pain wore away at my soul to the degree that there was no joy or happiness left in my life. There was nothing but the pain, day in and day out. 
It was at this point that I had nowhere to turn but to my own gut instinct. I knew deep down that the breast implants were the source of my hip pain. I didn’t know how to explain this to people, but I knew it was true, and I was terrified at the thought of going through with having the implants removed. I had to face the possibility that I could be wrong. What if I got the implants removed and I still didn’t get better? Then what? Getting implants removed is nearly as expensive as getting them put in, and I was completely out of funds. 
In the spring of 2010, I scraped together enough money and had my breast implants removed. Within one month I was back to walking normally, and within a year I was back to having a normal, pain-free body with full range of motion in my hip. 

Disrupting the Body's Balance Has Consequences

The following is a breakdown of the specific symptoms and physiological impacts that the implants had on my body:
  • Rounded upper back: The immediate impact of the implants on my body is that they caused my shoulders to round forward and my thoracic spine to curve forward excessively. Part of this was due to the fact that I was self-conscious of my larger breast size, so I rounded my shoulders forward most of the time without realizing it. Also, the physics of the location of the implants caused the muscles of the front of my chest to contract, and my thoracic spine had no where else to go but into excessive flexion.
  • Labored breathing: The rounding of my shoulders made it hard for me to breathe. I remember times when I would be sitting down at an event or watching a movie and I would suddenly gasp for air after realizing that I was literally holding my breath. I didn’t realize how much my ability to breathe with ease was impeded until after I had the implants removed and I was able to breathe normally again.
  • Compensation: The indirect effect of the implants was that the left side of my hip elevated as a form of compensation for my thoracic spine not being able to move properly. As a personal trainer and certified posture alignment specialist, I now know that in order for the hips to move through a full range of motion without pain, they should align symmetrically from left to right. The mechanics of my shoulders and spine were so dysfunctional when I had breast implants, that my hips had to compensate a great deal in order for me to move. This compensation eventually led to impingement in my left hip which caused the pain that I experienced at the time.
I learned from this ordeal that everything is connected. When my shoulders and thoracic spine returned to a more balanced position, so did my hips. I discovered through painful experience that the shoulders, spine, and hips are actually a unit, and if one part is not working, all other parts are impacted. After months and months of MRI studies, X-rays, exercise programs and surgeries, I finally concluded that my problems were the result of postural changes to the position of my joints and to the length and tension of the muscles surrounding the implants. 
Today, the posture of my shoulders, thoracic spine, and hips are greatly improved and I am free of pain and physical limitation. I had to work hard to reverse the impact of the implants. I utilized a program called posture alignment therapy that taught me how to fix my posture through the use of strategically sequenced sets of exercises. I have practiced these exercises daily ever since 2010. These exercises have become a part of the fabric of my life. I do not miss a day of doing my posture exercises because if I do, I just don’t feel right.

The Mental Healing Process

I don't regret that I made the choice to get implants, but getting to where I am today was a long process. I ultimately had to forgive myself for making the decision to get implants. For some time, I held a lot of resentment towards the doctors that did not believe me when I said that I thought my problems were caused by my implants. A big piece of the healing process was letting go of this resentment, and separating myself from the stories I made up about how my doctors didn’t want to help me. I do believe that all of my practitioners wanted to help me, and they did the best they could within the confines of the medical system. 
If you are a woman with breast implants, or if you are considering getting breast implants, please give the story that I have shared with you in this article some thought. Ultimately, every woman needs to do what is best for her own body, and we all have the intuition that we need to keep ourselves healthy.
Dealing with chronic injury? It could be your posture: