Some may not realize just how much breast pain can disrupt your life. It can get to the point where even slight movements can cause sharp pain. While some women experience a general tenderness that seems to linger, but not really be a problem, others can experience extreme pain from the slightest touch. Putting on a shirt, going about your day, and even intimacy can become a problem. Whether you are experiencing it for the first time during menopause, or it's familiar after decades of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), it's never too late to learn more.
Breast Pain Defined
Breast pain, also known as mastalgia, mastodynia, and mammalgia, is mild to intense pain in one or both breasts. The two main types are cyclic and non-cyclic breast pain. Non-cyclic breast pain is typically felt constantly in one area and caused by arthritis or physical trauma.
When it comes the menopause or PMS, however, it is generally cyclic breast pain that is experienced. This is usually the result of hormonal fluctuations during specific moments of your life. You can usually find a pattern and expect the pain, hence the name “cyclic”.
Hormonal fluctuations are the main cause of cyclic breast pain. During menopause and after menopause, hormones like progesterone, estrogen, and prolactin fluctuate. Abnormalities in these hormones, whether high or low, can result not only in pain, but in stress as well. Stress is another strong factor when it comes to breast pain.
If your mastalgia continues past menopause, then it may also be affected by lifestyle choices. If you lead a sedentary lifestyle, eat fatty foods, and consume caffeine, alcohol, or cigarettes, you will be more likely to experience tenderness.
Eating a healthy diet can have a surprisingly positive effect on breast pain. You can get plenty of vitamins and minerals by eating foods such as dark leafy greens, a range of fruits, and herbs like ginger. In addition, try to avoid consuming fatty foods, alcohol, refined sugars, and eat plenty of vitamin E.
Two herbal supplements known to relieve breast pain are chasteberry and evening primrose oil; both are widely available online or in specialty shops and are primarily found in supplemental and tea form.
Evening primrose oil works by providing the body with high levels of omega-3 and 6 fatty acids, which are building blocks for the body that can reduce inflammation. Studies have found this American native herb to be 92% successful for treating the issue.
Chasteberry is a standard treatment in Europe for cyclic breast pain. Studies have found that it significantly reduces pain by regulating prolactin levels.
This condition is usually not serious enough to call for medical help or prescription medications. There are many hormone blocking and supplemental hormones that may be suggested if you visit your doctor, but in some cases, they are likely unnecessary and can do more harm than good. It is generally recommended to first try the solutions mentioned above for lasting wellness before resorting to medical treatments.
When to Worry
If the pain is constant, excruciating, and seriously getting in the way of your life, you may want to see your doctor at the earliest opportunity. Also, if you notice any new lumps or irregularities, it is crucial that you see your doctor immediately.
Breast pain is common and manageable. If it is intruding on your freedom to walk, get dressed, dance, be intimate then making a few adjustments to your lifestyle and habits is the first step toward relief.
- National Institutes of Health. (2012). Breast pain: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Retrieved March 25, 2014, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003152.htm
- NYU Langone Medical Center. (2013). Chasteberry. Retrieved March 25, 2014, from http://www.med.nyu.edu/content?ChunkIID=21649
- University of Maryland Medical Center. (2011). Evening Primrose Oil. Retrieved March 25, 2014, from https://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/evening-primrose-oi