Breast pain affects two-thirds of women of reproductive age and is one of the most common complaints among 15-40 year olds.
Breast pain is not usually a symptom of breast cancer, but if a person has other breast changes, such as a lump or discharge, they should consult a doctor.
Read on to learn more about some of the causes of breast pain and get tips on how to relieve this symptom.
- Hormonal changes
Breast tenderness or swelling is often associated with hormonal changes that occur before menstruation. This type of breast pain usually causes tenderness in both breasts that extends to the armpit.
When breast pain is associated with the menstrual cycle, it is called cyclical breast pain. Cyclic breast pain can be part of a premenstrual syndrome known as premenstrual syndrome (PMS), or it can occur on its own.
Other symptoms of PMS include:
diarrhea or constipation
PMS is temporary and disappears a few days after the start of menstruation. In the meantime, people take over-the-counter pain relievers, wear comfortable, supportive bras, and use gentle heat to ease the pain.
Breast pain can be caused by other hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy or early menopause.
- Bra fitting
Bras that are too tight or contain underwires that dig into the skin or breast tissue can cause breast pain. If a person suffers from occasional breast pain, a regular bra may feel too small or uncomfortable at certain times of the menstrual cycle.
There are many stores where people can get bras that fit them for free. If they experience pain before their period, they may want to purchase a supportive, comfortable bra that is wireless.
Supportive bras are also helpful during exercise. According to a 2021 article, 60-70% of women report less breast pain when they wear a sports bra during exercise.
- Breast fibrocystic changes
Fibrocystic changes in the breast are a benign but unpleasant symptom that can cause the breast to become lumpy or have a different texture due to hormonal fluctuations. Fibrocystic breast disease is the most common type of noncancerous breast disease.
Symptoms may include:
Breasts that feel harder or thicker than usual
lump or cyst
Symptoms may worsen before menstruation and usually stop after menopause.
Treatment and management of fibrocystic breasts may include:
take an OTC pain reliever such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil).
apply cold or warm compresses when the breasts are more painful
Avoid high salt, caffeine and fat in your diet
Use or stop using birth control pills
If changes in breast fibroids may be related to a new contraceptive, it is important to talk to your doctor before changing the dose.