Breast pain is any pain felt in your breast tissue. This pain is more common in women and it can be caused by many factors. Breast pain most commonly occurs during your menstrual cycle. The pain can be described as tender, dull, sharp or heavy. If the pain is persistent, severe enough to affect your daily activity, and you notice any swelling or lump in your breast, you need to seek medical care.
The symptoms that you notice when you have breast pain depend on whether the pain occurs with your menstrual period (cyclical) or not (non-cyclical).
Cyclical symptoms include:
- Dull and heavy pain.
- It affects both breasts, rarely just one.
- Is accompanied by breast swelling.
- Pain under your armpit.
Non-cyclical symptoms include:
- Sharp, aching or burning pain.
- Pain happens at any time of the month.
- It affects one breast.
- Pregnancy: breast pain may be an early sign of pregnancy.
- Hormones: hormonal blood levels can play a role in breast pain.
- Breast infections: if the breast tissue is infected you may feel pain that comes with swelling, warm skin, and the possibly pus discharge.
- Injuries: injuries (e.g. accidents, surgery) to or muscle sprains in the neck, breast or back my cause breast pain.
Visit your healthcare provider if you notice any of the following:
- When breast pain affects your daily activities.
- When pain doesn’t go away after using pain relievers (e.g. paracetamol).
- When the pain prevents you from sleeping well.
- When you notice a swelling or lump in your breast.
- When the pain gets worse over time.
- Wear a properly fitted bra always. Sports bras help provide adequate breast support when exercising.
- Include low-fat foods in your diet. Examples of fatty foods are butter, eggs, fried foods, pork, sausages and palm oil. Reducing the amount of these foods and increasing the amount of lean meat, fruits, vegetables, and whole grain foods can help prevent breast pain.
- Avoid medications like hormonal drugs found in birth control pills that can cause breast pain. Discuss alternatives with your healthcare provider.
- Avoid excessive exercise. You should know when to stop, especially when you notice breast pain after doing certain exercises.
Breast pain management is dependent on the cause and can be managed by:
- Use a hot or cold compress on the area where you feel the pain.
- Use primrose oil which can be taken by mouth or rubbed on the skin.
- Wear a firm bra for support and a sports bra when exercising.
- Find time to relax. This may alleviate pain caused by anxiety.
- Contraceptive pills to regulate hormone levels in your blood.
- Antibiotics to address infections.
- Taking magnesium supplements during your menstrual cycle.
- Taking vitamin D supplements outside of your menstrual cycle.
Breast pain can be a usual pain during the days before menstruation and which improves after using pain relievers (e.g. paracetamol). If you notice that the pain (also) happens outside of your menstrual cycle then you should see your healthcare provider. Inform your healthcare provider of any symptoms that come with your breast pain.