Breast pain is common in both athletes and non-athletes, affecting millions of women. It is typically due to hormonal fluctuations, but can also be caused by things like poor diet, stress, and physical activity. The main culprit of breast pain from physical activity, however, is ill-fitted sports bras. It may seem counterintuitive, but exercising can actually help relieve breast pain in the long run. Keep reading to learn more about low impact exercises to relieve breast pain.
About Breast Pain
Breast pain refers to the general discomfort, tenderness, and soreness in one or both breasts. The leading cause of breast pain is fluctuations of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. These fluxes often cause inflammation of the breast tissue, which causes pain. Characteristics of breast pain range from mild to severe discomfort, sensitivity, burning, swelling, or dull, achy pain. Cyclical breast pain is the most common type of breast pain, and it is recurrent.
The British Journal of Sports Medicine published a study that observed the relationship of breast pain and exercise in active women. Researchers surveyed 1,285 female runners at the 2012 London Marathon registration. They asked the participants about their exercise habits, workout intensity, medical history, and how often they experienced breast pain.
The study found that exercise does significantly impact breast pain. Around 32% of the women reported breast pain, and the experience of pain was strongly linked to the size of a woman's bust. Women with larger breast size are more susceptible to breast pain from exercise. That being said, poorly-fitted sports bras were the main problem, and can be easily avoided.
Low-impact Exercises to Relieve Breast Pain
Practicing one of more of the following exercises will boost your muscle mass and help alleviate breast pain.
Yoga is a gentle exercise, and classes vary from beginner level to challenging and advanced. Studies have shown that yoga can reduce the impact of stress and anxiety and depression. Yoga also improves flexibility, balance, and muscle tone.
This low-impact exercise is easy on the joints and allows you to soak up some fresh air and vitamin D. There are typically well-maintained bike paths in parks that make it easy for cyclers to stay safe from traffic.
Swimming is an excellent low-impact exercise that can help relieve breast pain. It is great for relieving joint pain, as moving in water means no pressure is put on the joints. It is also an effective calorie burner and improves overall health and fitness.
Walking is easy to do anywhere, and it offers many health benefits. You can easily incorporate more walking into your daily routine by replacing a short drive with walking or getting off the bus or train one or two stops earlier than usual.
Exercising can significantly reduce breast pain and stress. It is recommended for women to wear a properly-fitted, supportive bra during any kind of activity, which has been shown to lessen breast pain in the majority of women. Low-impact exercises, like yoga and swimming, are also gentle and beneficial for relieving breast pain.
- Brown, N. et al. (2014). The experience of breast pain (mastalgia) in female runners of the 2012 London Marathon and its effect on exercise behaviour. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 48(4), 320-325. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2013-092175
- National Institutes of Health. (2012). Breast pain. Retrieved December 19, 2014, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003152.htm