top of page

Breast Pain

Breast Pain is common and, according to PubMed Central, is said to effect approximately two-thirds of females during their reproductive years. It's clinical term is Mastalgia and it has many possible causes.

Breast Pain is not a common symptom of breast cancer but if a person has pain alongside other symptoms, such as a lump or discharge, then they should have it checked by their Doctor.
Read on to learn more about possible causes of breast pain and some of our tips on how to manage these symptoms.

Holding Hands

Hormonal Changes

Tender or swollen breasts are usually due to cyclical changes that take place during the monthly menstrual phases. This type of breast pain usually causes tenderness in both breasts and it can extend to the armpit.
Cyclic breast pain can occur as part of a set of symptoms that develop just prior to menstruation, known as premenstrual syndrome (PMS, or it may occur on its own.

Other symptoms of PMS include

  • mood swings

  • acne

  • headaches

  • bloating

  • diarrhea or constipation

  • tiredness

  • trouble sleeping

PMS is temporary and it usually goes away a few days after your period begins. In the meantime you could treat symptoms by drinking plenty of clean water to flush toxins and support your lymph system, wearing a soft supportive bra, applying gentle heat via a wheat bag or warm compress to ease pain and taking over-the-counter pain relief medication.

Breast pain can also occur due to other hormonal changes such as pregnancy or the early stages of menopause.

Bra Fit

Bras can cause pain if they are the wrong fit or contain an underwire that digs into the skin or breast tissue. If you get cyclic breast pain, you may notice that at certain times during your menstrual cycle your usual bra may feel too small or uncomfortable.
 

It is worth getting a proper bra fitting from a professional if you intend to wear bras regularly. You might consider getting wire free, soft, comfortable and supportive bras to wear during cycle changes. Many women also opt to go bra free.

If you have larger breasts it may help to wear a good fitting, supportive bra during exercise. According to a 2021 article in PubMed, 60-70% of women report less breast pain when wearing a sports bra during exercise.

Fibrocystic Breast Changes

Fibrocystic breasts are harmless but can cause uncomfortable symptoms due to the texture changes of the breast tissue and hormonal fluctuations. Fibrocystic breast disease is the most common type of noncancerous breast condition, according to PubMed.

Symptoms may include:

  • breasts that feel firmer or thicker than usual

  • tenderness

  • lumps or cysts

  • sensitive nipples

  • itchiness

The symptoms may get worse before a period and usually stop after menopause.

Some treatments and management of fibrocystic breasts may include:

  • applying cool or warm compresses (depending on preference) when the breasts are most painful

  • avoiding large intake of salt, caffeine or fat in your diet

  • over the counter pain relief medication

If fibrocystic breast changes are related to a new contraceptive it is important to talk with your doctor about reviewing the dosage.

We have more information on Fibrocystic Breasts here 

Mastitis

Mastitis is the term for inflammation or swelling in the breasts. The usual cause is an infection. Although the condition most commonly effects those who are breastfeeding, it can occur in people who are not.

The symptoms of mastitis include:

  • swelling, pain and warmth in part of the breast

  • fever

  • headaches

  • general flu-like symptoms

A person who is breastfeeding will need to empty their breasts as much as possible. This can feel painful, like there is a blockage, warm compress may assist as well as gentle dry skin brushing and massage. Often once the blockage is clear and milk reserves reduced relief can feel almost instant.

The treatment for an infection is antibiotics.
If an abscess develops doctors will drain the pus surgically or remove it with a needle.

We have more information on Mastitis here 

Medications

Some medications can contribute to the development of breast pain. If breast pain is new for you and you are currently taking prescribed medications it is important to discuss these changes with your doctor. Ask them to see the 'package insert' for the medications you are taking. This document is available for all prescription medications and contains the technical information relating to that substance, including known side effects.

Scar Tissue

Both surgery and radiation therapy for breast cancer can cause scar tissue formation.

This can result in:

  • numbness or pain, if the scar tissue develops around nerves

  • an increase in firmness or a rounder shape to the breast

  • formation of a lump if the scar forms around a surgical stitch

Some options for relief include:

  • dry skin brushing and massage with nurturing balms to increase blood flow and clear build up of lymph, whilst improving suppleness and elasticity of the surrounding skin

  • physical therapy if the scar tissue is causing pain, stiffness and pressure

  • sometimes further surgery to remove scar tissue

Back, Neck or Shoulder Sprains

Breast pain can originate from outside of the breast, rather than within it. For example sprains or injuries in the back, neck or shoulders might cause pain that is felt in the breast.

When we perceive pain in a broader area than the site where it originates, this is known as referred pain. The treatment relies on finding the underlying problem. For example, if a person with breast pain has a pinched nerve in their neck, physical therapy for the neck may improve the breast pain.

Costochondritis

Costochondritis is inflammation of the costal cartilage, which connects the ribs to the breastbone. The condition can cause sharp chest pain and tenderness, and it may have a gradual or sudden onset.
The following factors may worsen the pain:

  • pressure on the chest, such as when wearing a seat belt

  • physical activity

  • sitting or lying in particular positions

  • deep breathing, sneezing or coughing

Treatment may include:

  • avoiding activities that worsen the pain

  • applying heat to the area

  • taking anti-inflammatory medications

  • undergoing transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), a procedure that applies an electric current to an area to reduce pain

Chest Wall Pain

A range of conditions can cause pain in the wall of the chest. This pain can sometimes feel as though it is coming from the breast, even though it is not.

The pain can vary in extent, ranging from one specific area to a wide area of the breast. Chest wall pain may feel like:

  • burning or sharp pain

  • pain that spreads down the arm

  • pain that occurs when someone applies pressure to the chest wall

  • pain that worsens upon movement

Possible causes include:

  • bruising

  • fractured ribs

  • gallstones

  • angina

  • autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis

The treatment will vary depending on the cause, but it may involve pain management and avoiding movements that make the pain worse until the root cause is resolved.

Breast Cysts

Breast cysts are fluid filled sacs. They are noncancerous, relatively soft, and more common in premenopausal females. Some cysts do not produce symptoms, but others may cause pain and nipple discharge.

Unless the cysts are particularly large or painful, they do not need treatment. If it is necessary medical professionals may drain the fluid out with a needle.

We have more information on Breast Cysts here 

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer occurs when cells in the breast mutate and begin growing uncontrollably. Pain in the breast is not usually due to cancer, but this is a possible cause.

Other symptoms may include:

  • a lump in the breast

  • pain in any part of the breast

  • nipple discharge — bloody, clear, or otherwise

  • dimpling or irritation of breast skin

  • pulling in at the nipple or pain in the nipple

  • flaky, inflamed skin in the nipple area

  • thickening or swelling of part of the breast

  • change in the shape or size of the breast

People can also develop an inflammatory breast cancer, this is a more rare type and only accounts for 1%-5% of breast cancers. This causes different symptoms including:

  • pink, red, or purple discoloration that covers at least one-third of the breast

  • swelling of the skin, making one breast look larger than the other

  • pitting of the skin, similar to that of orange peel

  • a retracted or inverted nipple

  • a painful, tender, or itchy breast

There are many different approaches to treating breast cancer and it is a very individual journey. What works for one person may be different for the next. At Happy Breast Balm we believe that every woman can, and must, take control of their own health. We encourage you to explore and research everything you can and choose the treatment that feels right for you. We wish you all the very best in health and strength.
We have more information on Breast Cancer here 

Best Sellers