9 Reasons why you may be suffering from breast pain

Breast pain, also known as mastalgia, is a common condition experienced by some young to middle aged women.

Menopause and Perimenopause | PMS

Cortney Good
Desiree Abecassis
@AVogel_ca


22 October 2019

Why do breasts hurt and feel hard?

Breast pain is characterized as an inflammatory condition and may increase the sensitivity of the skin and breast tissue around it.
Symptoms of breast pain may include: Soreness, swelling, heaviness, shooting or burning pangs. In a nutshell, breast pain hurts!
During the hormonal changes accompanying menstruation, estrogen is released and can lead to the accumulation of water in the breast nodules and can cause hard nodules, increased sensitivity, and even an increase in breast size. [3]

What should you know about cyclic and non-cyclic breast pain?

Breast pain can be caused by hormonal changes during menstruation (cyclic pain) or may be experienced outside of this hormonal pattern (non-cyclic pain). [2]

  • Cyclic pain: Common in women under 35 years, this is the most common type of breast pain in women. It can result from hormonal changes that take place before the onset of a period as well as during menstruation. The pain usually occurs in both breasts and is characterized by high sensitivity in the chest and underarm region. The pain intensifies before menstruation.
  • Noncyclic pain: Breast pain can also be triggered by factors other than hormones. This type of pain is common in women over 35 years. Some women describe this pain as a burning sensation in the breast area. The main causes for non-cyclic pain are fibroadenomas or cysts.

What are some causes of breast pain?

Some women may experience mild breast pain for a shorter period of time- only a few days. If the pain continues for a longer period of time, a physician must be consulted.
Let's look at the 9 possible causes for breast pain:

  1. Puberty It is normal to feel pain during puberty because the breast tissue is developing and can cause muscle contractions.
  2. Menstruation and premenstrual syndrome (PMS) Cyclical breast pain is linked to a woman's reproductive cycle. It can take hold during PMS and menstruation when hormonal changes such as estrogen release occur. This hormone causes cyclic breast pain. The pain is characterized by an achy and heavy feeling. Breasts may swell or seem lumpy and symptoms may get worse during the 2 weeks before a period begins and then it usually subsides afterwards.
  3. Pregnancy During the first trimester of pregnancy the body adapts to new changes and the breast tissue can also change due to the hormones released during pregnancy.
  4. After pregnancy During the period of breastfeeding the anatomy of the breast changes and it is also normal to experience pain, itching and redness.
  5. Mastitis is an inflammation of the mammary glands that occurs as a result of accumulated breast milk; mastitis is inflammatory and can cause breast redness and fever if an infection sets in.
  6. Menopause The hormonal changes that occur during menopause alter breast tissue sensitivity, thus resulting in muscle contraction that may cause pain. [1]
  7. Fibrocystic breast changes Fibrocysts are benign mammary nodules caused by hormonal imbalances. Fibrocystic manifestations are hard nodules that cause pain, redness, and discomfort. Fibrous tissue (breast tissue can be scar-like or ropey in their texture) and cysts (fluid filled sacs) form in the breasts. About half of women in their 20's -50's experience fibrocystic breasts. Treatment is not required unless symptoms are severe but monitoring is recommended.
  8. Fibroadenoma is a benign tumor that causes breast pain. It is a large nodule that should be checked and monitored by a treating physician.
  9. Breast cancer Generally, the onset of breast cancer is asymptomatic but a small percentage of women may experience pain in the breast and axillary region. Hard nodules should be immediately examined by a doctor. [3]

Medications to help relieve breast pain

Taking medication for breast pain is an approach which simply manages superficial symptoms and does not help to address the underlying root cause of why the breast pain is there in the first place.
The efficacy of this approach depends on the original cause of the pain and how intense it is. For temporary relief, a woman may quickly and easily relieve breast pain with over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen or Tylenol [2] or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: Ibuprofen, Naproxen or Aspirin. Some may prescribed contraceptive pills to address the menstrual cycle and the release of hormones. Yet that does not come without its side effects.

4 effective natural remedies to reduce breast pain

There are alternative ways to address breast pain. We will take a look at several natural remedies that are effective and do provide a complement to conventional medications [2]

  1. Hot compresses: Hot compresses have a relaxing effect on breast tissue and contracted chest muscles because they increase blood circulation. A warm cloth or heating pad may be applied to the breast area for 15 minutes in order to provide relief.
  2. Vitex Agnus-Castus / Chasteberry: helps to reduce breast pain. Through history, Vitex has been used for its health benefits for women, especially for balancing hormones and improving the conditions of the female reproductive system, reducing breast pain, breast tenderness and for menstruation challenges. It is a hormone normalizer that helps to stabilize menstrual cycle irregularities and to help relieve pre-menstrual symptoms. The main function of Vitex Agnus-Castus is to inhibit the secretion of prolactin because it interacts with dopamine receptors. There is evidence that Vitex Agnus-Castus may be an effective treatment for lower prolactin levels, this helps to improve the balance of other hormones such as estrogen and progesterone thus relieving the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. [4]
  3. Magnesium supplement: Magnesium should normally be consumed 2 weeks before the onset of menstruation, thus relieving the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome as it helps to relax overly contracted and stressed muscles.
  4. Evening primrose oil: is useful in regulating the balance of fatty acids and thereby reducing breast inflammation.

What are the lifestyle and dietary changes for relieving breast pain?

  • Proper support is a must: Some women with large heavy breasts may suffer pain from stretched ligaments and breast tissue. This pain may also radiate toward the back, neck and shoulders. This is why wearing a high quality bra is highly recommended. One with plenty of support. Adjust your bra so it doesn't put pressure on your breasts. Sports bras are comfortable and adapted to your breasts without pressure.
  • Meditation and relaxation therapy: Relaxation therapy can reduce stress and inflammation.
  • Reduce caffeine: The excessive consumption of caffeine stimulates breast inflammation.
  • Reduce fat intake: Especially poor quality fats. This tip can help reduce inflammation and breast pain.
  • Keep a record of when the pain is experienced: Record the days when breast pain intensifies in a notebook or on a phone app such as period tracker. This will determine if it is a cyclic pain caused by hormonal changes.

To conclude:

Breast pain may be caused by a variety of reasons. Identifying the root cause is very important as the choice of treatment may vary. It's advisable to consult with your medical doctor in order to rule out any serious health concerns. Natural treatment options and lifestyle recommendations are always suggested on their own or as an adjunct to your doctor prescribed regimen.

References

1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/breast-pain/symptoms-causes/syc-20350423
2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/breast-pain/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20350426
3. https://www.webmd.com/breast-cancer/benign-breast-lumps
4. https://www.thieme-connect.de/products/ejournals/abstract/10.1055/s-0032-1327831

 

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