Sore breasts are a common problem among women of any age. If your breasts hurt, you’re not alone. The first step to treating mastalgia (breast pain) is getting to the bottom of the cause.
Causes of Sore Breasts
Ovulation and menstruation are the most common causes of sore breasts. Hormones and enlarging milk ducts are the reason your breasts and tender to the touch. This type of mastalgia often disappears during or after your period.
Breast tenderness is common among pregnant women due to fluctuating hormones and milk duct engorgement. This is one of the first signs of pregnancy and may begin within weeks of conception. Enlargement of the areola, nausea, vomiting, and a missed period are almost certain signs of pregnancy.
Mastitis is an infection of the breast tissue commonly caused by breastfeeding. A nursing woman has more of an opening in her nipples, where infection can find its way in. Symptoms of mastitis include swelling of one breast, breast lumps, tenderness, itching, nipple discharge, low-grade fever, nausea, and vomiting.
Fluctuating hormone levels associated with the change of life are a common cause of painful breasts. This is one of the first signs of menopause and may often begin in the late 30s early 40s.
- Fibrocystic Breasts
Fibrocystic breast disease is a very common condition characterized by engorged breast tissue, a feeling of hardness to the breasts, benign lumps and bumps, and pain upon contact. In extreme cases, even gentle breast exams are intolerable. Fibrocystic breasts affect nearly half of women between the ages of 30 and 50.
Medications are often overlooked as the cause of tender breasts. Birth control pills, antidepressants, steroids, and hormone replacement drugs are the most common culprits. If your breast tenderness developed shortly after you began taking a certain prescription, talk with your doctor about switching.
You may never have considered your bra as the source of your breast pain but an ill-fitting bra can really be a problem. The wrong size bra constricts delicate breast tissue and cuts off circulation. When you take the bra off, you may see red lines on your skin where the bra used to be. If so, your bra is either too tight or it’s the wrong fit.
Treating Tender Breasts at Home
The best way to treat breast pain at home is to first figure out what’s causing your pain. If your breast tenderness is caused by medication or an ill-fitting bra, tackle that first. Talk with your doctor and visit a professional bra fitter to find your exact size.
In the case of hormone-related breast pain, gentle breast massage can help. Gentle massage helps relieve tenderness and inflammation by encouraging the release of blocked lymph and improving circulation. Dry skin brushing can also help. Using a dry skin brush, hold one arm above your head and gently brush in circular motions. Repeat on the other side.
Using a hot water bottle on your breasts can also cut down on the soreness during your menstrual cycle, pregnancy or menopause. Studies have also shown that cutting down on caffeine can reduce benign breast pain. Also, if you consume a high-fat diet, it may contribute to your chronic breast pain. Reduce fat, increase fiber, and eliminate processed foods from your diet.
If you are not pregnant or nursing, you may also benefit from adding some anti-inflammatory supplements to your diet:
- Evening Primrose Oil
Evening primrose oil is rich in anti-inflammatory gamma-linolenic acid and has been shown to reduce breast tenderness and the irritability and anxiety associated with premenstrual syndrome.
- Stinging Nettles
Stinging nettles is an herbal remedy commonly used to treat hay fever and hives. However, it may also work for breast pain due to its anti-inflammatory properties. It is also a minor diuretic and has been used in nursing women to promote lactation.
- Magnesium and Calcium
Oftentimes, fibrocystic breast condition is a result of mineral deficiency. Adding a whole-food chelated magnesium supplement containing calcium can alleviate the soreness and benign breast lumps.
Arnica Montana is a homeopathic remedy that helps relieve chronic inflammation and muscle soreness.
When to See a Doctor
If breast pain is bilateral and uniform, it is likely caused by menstrual cycle, ovulation, pregnancy, medication or fibrocystic breasts. However, if pain comes on suddenly and is accompanied by flu-like symptoms, you should visit your doctor immediately as this could be a sign of mastitis. If you find a suspicious breast lump, you should also make an appointment with your doctor to rule out anything serious.
Tender breasts are rarely anything to worry about and they can be treated at home. Watch this easy lymphatic breast massage video to ease your sore breasts at home.