69 percent of women say they experience breast pain, here’s what it’s all about.
Breast soreness is common from time to time and with the worry of cancer or lumps, it’s normal to fear the worst. Breast pain is totally common, especially in developing bodies and while you’re on your period. However, what happens when the pain is persistent? Dull pains or aches can be worrisome and irritating.
What’s up with breasts in the first place?
The milk-producing gland is made up of fat and tissue which protect “nerves, blood vessels, and milk ducts.” Breast development is different from person to person, as some people begin to hit puberty around ten or 11 years old, but many people can begin to grow breasts as early as eight or as old as 13. After four to five years, a persons breasts are adult size.
What causes soreness?
Healthcare professionals call breast pain “mastalgia.” Tracking breast pain is important in order to rule out any potentially worrisome indicators. Here are a few reasons for why your breasts are sore, throbbing, swelling, or in pain.
- You’re PMSing: During menstruation, a body produces estrogen and progesterone which contribute to hormonal changes and can cause tender breasts because of swelling. Dr. Alyssa Dweck, a gynecologist in Westchester County, New York said that, “Breast soreness typically occurs right before the period is about to come on.” This type of soreness is called cyclic pain and typically goes away when your period ends. Dr. Taraneh Shirazian, M.D., assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive science at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York says that birth control can help keep estrogen levels stable which influences pain in the breasts. For more natural pain relief, try primrose oil supplements.
- Working out too much: Dr. Shirazian says, “There are pectoral muscles there [muscles beneath the breasts]” which can contribute to light breast pain after pushups or weight lifting. Apply relief to this area with heating pads or a pain reliever. Moreover, if you’re working out without stretching, you may have pulled or strained a pectoral muscle.
- Get your bra sized correctly: According to a Triumph study in 2008, 80 percent of women are wearing the wrong bra size. Tightness, or underwire, can contribute to sore breasts. Moreover, if you don’t have enough support, especially while working out, the up and down movement can cause pain. If you have bigger breasts, it’s important to have proper support because bouncing can cause breast tissue to be pulled.
- You have lumps: Lumpy breast tissue is known as fibrocystic breast tissue which is linked to breast soreness during the menstrual cycle. The National Breast Cancer Foundation says that this tissue is not linked to breast cancer but is more sensitive to hormonal changes. 50 percent of people in their 20s to 50s have fibrocystic breast tissue.
- You could be beginning menopause: Just like with puberty, menopause is a transitional time for the body because of hormonal changes. On average, people reach menopause around the age of 51 and is a gradual process that takes between four to 12 years. Breast soreness from menopause feels like burning, stabbing, or throbbing. For pain, there are over the counter options, as well as vitamins for alternative methods.
- A change in birth control: Pain that is around all month long could be because of a change in your birth control. Dr. Dweck says that birth control can cause breast pain in the first month of two because your body is adjusting to the change in hormones. It’s important to note if the pain is one breast or both because one breast may have a cyst, which will feel like a small bubble and could cause a little bit of discharge from the nipple.
When should you worry about pain?
Breast pain where you should contact a doctor is usually accompanied by another symptom. Severe pain that hinders you from continuing normal tasks, redness or warmth could be a symptom of an infection. Breast swelling and breast pain can be an early symptom of pregnancy so make sure to check in with your general practitioner if you find it necessary. Moreover, if you notice discharge from both breasts, contact a doctor right away.
Breast pain is actually rarely a symptom of breast cancer and the only type of cancer it is linked to is inflammatory breast cancer, which is very uncommon and only affects 5 percent of cancer diagnoses.
How to alleviate pesky breast pain?
For every person, pain has a different threshold and different treatments work. For some people, an ice pack or heating pad can alleviate pain in breasts. Refraining from caffeine can also help breast pain but study’s on this are still new. Increasing your water intake and eliminating super salty foods can be helpful when suffering from pain. And as we mentioned before, over the counter medication like Advil is always a quick and easy fix.
Unfortunately, breast pain is the most common pain for women to experience. In a study of 1,171 women, “69 percent said they experienced regular breast pain while on their periods and 11 percent had moderate to severe breast pain more than seven days a month.” Living with breast pain can be difficult and upsetting as it influences mood and ability. Our advice? Stay alert of changes and speak with a general practitioner if you feel that something more severe is occurring to your body.