Many women encounter breast pain during their life, and although it does not necessarily lead to severe discomfort or serious medical consequences, it can be a cause for great concern. Unfortunately, a lack of knowledge about the potential roots of breast pain can lead women to assume the worse. Therefore, understanding the causes of breast pain is important. Read on to discover the answers to your questions.
What Is Breast Pain? Is it Different for Each Person?
As the term suggests, breast pain - or mastalgia, as it is known medically - is characterized by discomfort in the breasts. The experience might be felt as a tenderness, tightness, soreness, burning, dullness, aching, and lumpiness, although not all sufferers will encounter the same symptoms. For example, while some women might only have one symptom, in more severe cases, others will experience them all. Additionally, certain ladies might find themselves suffering from discomfort in both breasts, whereas others only have pain in one. The duration of the pain will also differ from woman to woman.
Why Do I Have Breast Pain?
Breast pain can be divided into two categories: cyclical or non-cyclical. Cyclical breast pain refers to discomfort caused by hormonal imbalance and is normally to blame for breast pain in premenopause, perimenopause, pregnancy, and PMS. Normally, estrogen levels rise throughout the menstrual cycle and cause breasts to become larger. However, when estrogen levels fluctuate, particularly during the transitional menopausal stage, these actions become disrupted and lead to breast pain or tenderness.
Non-cyclical breast pain is the term used to describe discomfort caused by any reason other than hormonal alterations. The possible causes for non-hormonal breast pain include:
- Breast cysts
- Breast trauma
- Breast size
- Alcohol intake
- Oral contraceptive use
- Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
- Cholesterol and heart drugs
What Is the Most Common Reason for Breast Pain?
The most common cause of breast pain is hormonal imbalance, most commonly experienced by women in their 30s, 40s, and 50s, or during pregnancy. In most of these cases, women will experience breast pain because their estrogen levels are fluctuating. It is rare for breast pain to be a sign of cancer.
How Can I Treat My Breast Pain?
In the majority of cases, rebalancing hormone levels is central to easing breast pain. Fortunately, this can be achieved by taking simple steps and making subtle changes to your lifestyle. The following lifestyle suggestions will improve general well-being, which is important when trying to achieve balanced hormone levels:
- Take a daily half-hour walk
- Practice breathing techniques or yoga
- Reduce your caffeine and alcohol intake
- Eat a low-fat diet with adequate fiber intake
- Reduce salt consumption
In addition to adopting these changes, wearing a supportive bra and using ice packs is advisable when trying to reduce discomfort. Breast pain can be experienced as a subtle pain or severe discomfort and anywhere in between. Follow this link to learn more about breast pain treatments.
- Hutchinson, Susan M.D. "The Stages of a Woman's Life: Menstruation, Pregnancy, Nursing, Perimenopause, Menopause". November 2007.
- Love, Susan M.D. Menopause and Hormone Book. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2003.
- BMJ Group. "Menopause: What is it?" Patient Leaflet. 2007.