Breast pain is a common complaint among women, with about 66% experiencing it at some point in their lives. Although it can be a source of worry, it is very rarely a cause for concern, and is normally highly manageable. There are two types of breast pain - cyclical and non-cyclical - but the actual sensations that can be felt are many, varying from a slight tenderness to intense burning or throbbing sensations. Read on to discover more information about the different types of breast pain.
Cyclical Breast Pain
Cyclical breast pain is linked to hormones, and is also known as cyclical mastalgia. It is the most common type of breast pain, responsible for around three quarters of cases. Because estrogen and progesterone have a direct effect on the breast tissue, dips in the levels of these hormones can cause inflammation or soreness in the area. Therefore, most sufferers of cyclical breast pain will notice discomfort around the time of their period – namely during premenstrual syndrome (PMS) - or while they are going through menopause.
Sometimes, the pain is very recurrent, and can be predicted on a monthly basis, but for some women, they might feel pain only occasionally. The pain is not normally extreme enough to affect a woman's everyday life, but in some cases, it can be so severe that medical attention is necessary. There could be a heaviness, tenderness, burning, prickling, or stabbing pain, and it can affect either one or both breasts. Fortunately, most women find that the pain lasts only a few days and disappears when the hormone levels are stabilized again.
Non-cyclical Breast Pain
Non-cyclical breast pain is rarer than the cyclical type and its basic definition is that it is not caused by hormones. Therefore, there are a wide range of causes that can lead to this.
The pain is normally related to some kind of muscle trauma in the chest or ribcage; for example, a pulled muscle or some kind of tissue damage, such as a scar tissue from breast surgery or a bra digging into the breast.
Unfortunately, because of the unpredictable nature of non-cyclical breast pain, it is difficult to know when or if it will disappear. In most cases, the muscle or tissue will heal on its own, so most women do not have problems when suffering from non-cyclical discomfort. However, if it does become severe or chronic, talking to a doctor might help you devise strategies to deal with it.
Both types of breast pain are uncomfortable and can cause some degree of distress, but luckily for most women, the pain is not unbearably severe and it subsides quite quickly. For those who cannot pinpoint the source of their pain, or are finding that it is affecting everyday activities, it is important to seek medical advice in order to rule out more serious conditions and get help in managing the pain.
- Breast Cancer Care. (2013). Breast pain. Retrieved October 3, 2014, from http://www.breastcancercare.org.uk/breast-cancer-information/benign-breast-conditions/breast-pain#noncyclical
- National Breast Cancer Foundation. (2012). Breast Pain. Retrieved October 3, 2014, from http://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/breast-pain
- National Institutes of Health. (2012). Breast - premenstrual tenderness and swelling. Retrieved October 3, 2014, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003153.htm