Breast pain, while common, can be an incredibly frustrating symptom. Whether your pain is mild or severe, it can inhibit even the simplest tasks, like putting on a shirt or working out. You may start to wonder what is causing this unusual increase in breast tenderness. Learn more about the causes of breast pain.
Types of Breast Pain
Breast pain- also known as mastalgia, mastodynia, or mammalgia - can emerge in two distinct forms. The first, which is less common, is called non-cyclic mastalgia. Non-cyclic mastalgia is typically a result of an arthritic condition or physical trauma. The pain is isolated in one affected area and usually does not subside until it is directly treated.
The other type is called cyclic mastalgia. This is usually a result of hormonal imbalance at select points in the month. The pain can shift throughout the breast area and is usually temporary, but likely to return.
Symptoms of Breast Pain
In the case of cyclic mastalgia, symptoms vary for each woman. While one may experience brief moments of sharp pain, others may feel lingering tenderness around the breast, nipple, or even around the underarm area. Other common signs are heaviness and slight breast size increase through swelling.
Breast Pain Causes
There are many reasons why women experience breast pain. The primary cause is hormonal fluctuations that occur in cyclic mastalgia. Changes in hormone levels can result in swelling and the production of breast milk, even when a woman is not breastfeeding. In the days before a woman's period, she may experience breast tenderness as part of PMS. The drop in hormones that trigger menstruation can also result in PMS symptoms. Other causes are excessive salt intake, in addition to a lack of essential nutrients, especially vitamin E.
Estrogen imbalance, as mentioned earlier, can fuse cyclic breast pain. During menopause, an overall decline in progesterone and estrogen occurs as the body begins to prepare to stop menstruation entirely. These hormonal changes can cause aches and pains throughout the breast, and can come and go throughout your entire menopausal - and sometimes postmenopausal - phase.
Menopause comes with all sorts of difficulties, from mood swings to loss of libido and even breast pain. Although this can be a disconcerting thing to realize, it is a temporary result of the many changes taking place in your body and will cease with time. In the meantime, there are many means to manage breast pain and other symptoms of menopause. If your pain gets to the point where it is unbearable, you develop a new lump, or have nipple discharge, it is essential to seek immediate medical attention.
- National Institutes of Health. (2012). Breast Pain: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Retrieved June 9, 2014, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003152.htm
- NYU Langone Medical Center. (2013). Menopause. Retrieved June 9, 2014, from http://www.med.nyu.edu/content?ChunkIID=11676
- Ohio State University. (n.d.). Mastalgia (Breast Pain). Retrieved June 9, 2014, from http://medicalcenter.osu.edu/patientcare/healthcare_services/breast_health/common_breast_conditions/mastalgia/Pages/index.aspx
- Parsay, S. , Olfati, F. & Nahidi, S. (2009). Therapeutic effects of vitamin E on cyclic mastalgia. The breast journal, 15(5), 510-514. doi: 10.1111/j.1524-4741.2009.00768.x