Understanding Armpit and Breast Pain

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By Sarah E. | Updated: Jun 18, 2020


Breast pain is a common symptom of menopause and can cause sore, swollen breasts and a persistent throbbing pain in the armpit. Breast pain can grow so severe that walking, jerky movements, or contact of any kind causes discomfort.

Continue reading to understand the various causes of pain in the breast and armpit as well as effective management and treatment options for ultimate relief.

Understanding armpit and breast pain

Common Causes of Pain in Breast and Armpit

Hormonal Causes

Breast pain, also known as mastalgia, is categorized as either cyclical or non-cyclical. It can be experienced during different life stages and can vary based on a woman's own unique physiology and genetics.

Cyclical breast pain is characterized by constant pain in one area of the breast as a result of hormonal changes that take place during menstruation. It is the most common in premenopausal women.

On the other hand, non-cyclical breast pain is more likely after menopause, and it is typically caused by a cyst, benign tumor, arthritis, or physical trauma.

Both types of breast pain can start in the breast tissues and radiate out and into the armpit, provoking varying degrees of discomfort.

Other Causes

Other factors can cause or contribute to pain in the breast and armpit, such as:

  • Contraception. Birth control pills and other methods of contraception that introduce exogenous hormones into the body can cause side breast tenderness and pain.

  • Breast cysts. Cysts are fluid-filled sacs that can appear just before your menstrual period, also causing breast pain that can radiate to the armpits.

  • Breast size. Large and dense breasts can cause breast pain by stretching ligaments and tissues in the breast.

  • Hormone replacement therapy (HRT). For the same reason as contraception, the hormones taken from HRT can cause breast and underarm pain. 

  • Medications. The most frequent culprits are psychiatric medications, antidepressants, and cardiovascular drugs. 

  • Muscle strain. Pulling the pectoralis major muscle, which lies directly beneath and around the breast, may feel as if a woman is suffering from armpit breast pain. 

  • Infections. Infections like mastitis can cause severe tenderness, redness, and swelling of the breast tissues for various days.

Without a doubt, experiencing breast pain, especially when it is a left breast pain, can be worrisome. However, try not to jump to hasty conclusions, assuming that your pain is  indicative of breast cancer or other serious complications. In fact, breast pain is a very rare symptom of cancer.1

Managing Armpit and Breast Pain

The pain felt in the breast region can sometimes subside with simple lifestyle adjustments. These include:

Avoid Triggers

  • Caffeine
  • Saturated fats
  • Alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Tight clothing
  • Using ice packs or hot water bottles. Apply compresses to the breasts to soothe them. Do it before going to sleep.

  • Wearing a supportive bra. Try wearing a well-fitting, supportive bra for breast pain throughout the day and a sports bra when you exercise.

  • Practicing de-stressing activities. Yoga, deep breathing techniques, and meditation can help reduce the severity of armpit and breast pain by reducing stress and promoting relaxation.

  • Regular exercise. Besides being highly beneficial for overall health, it has been shown that exercise can combat breast pain, too. For optimal results, opt for low-impact workouts evenly spread throughout the week.

  • Staying hydrated. Consuming the equivalent of six to eight glasses of water a day helps reduce swelling and inflammation throughout the body. Be mindful of the potential effects of caffeine on breast pain.

  • Taking herbal medicine. Considering various herbal supplements for treating breast pain, like chasteberry or Macafem, can help women reduce this pesky symptom safely and naturally.

More Information

Although breast pain is generally harmless, there is a point when the pain is severe enough that you should look for more than simple lifestyle changes.

To treat the principal cause of breast pain during menopause, which is hormonal imbalance, click on the following link to learn about natural and effective breast pain treatments for ultimate relief.

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