It would be too easy for your period to just sabotage your pelvic region. Way too easy. Because having female hormones often feels like being on a roller coaster from hell, your menstrual cycle can also wreak havoc on your boobs. Breast pain pre-period is extremely normal, if not incredibly unfair. Here’s everything you need to know about that fun time of the month when your breasts double in size and feel like they were pummeled by a power drill.
- Ten reasons why cramps happen after your period
- Premenstrual Breast Swelling and Tenderness
- Periods and sore breasts
- An introduction to periods and sore breasts
- Are there any warning signs to look out for?
- How can your period cause sore breasts?
- Dietary and lifestyle factors
- Herbal remedies to help
- How can my doctor help?
- Breast pain
- Your Boobs Are Sore Because You’re Getting Your Period
- 1. You’re About To Get Your Period
- 2. You’re About to Stop Getting Your Period Forever
- 3. You’re Pregnant
- 4. You Need A Better Bra
- 5. You’re Over-Caffeinated
- 6. You Have An Infected Breast
- 7. You’ve Pulled A Muscle
- Breast Pain: Why Do My Boobs Hurt?
- Thank you!
- How to reduce breast pain before period?
- Why do my boobs hurt before my period?
- My Breasts Ache During My Period. What Can I Do?
- Summit Medical Group Web Site
Why Your Breasts Feel Like Sandbags
After ovulation — which happens about midway through your menstrual cycle, or two weeks after your period — the hormone progesterone starts to rise. Around day 21 of a standard, 28-day cycle, progesterone peaks, and as Rebecca Brightman, an ob-gyn in New York City explains, one of the rude symptoms of progesterone is that it can cause the ducts in your breasts to expand. Progesterone can also cause increased water retention. So between expanded breast ducts and water retention in the breast (and all over your bod), it’s very normal for your breasts to feel heavy and painful before your period.
Brightman says that when this happens varies a lot from woman to woman, and even from month to month. “Some women say, ‘Two weeks before I get my period, I’m dying,'” Brightman says. “Other people say, ‘A couple days before, I’m really uncomfortable.'” It’s a full spectrum of breast experience. Some women may feel their breasts are dense, full, and swollen a week or two before their period; others may just feel immense pain a few days before — it can be anything. And the symptoms you experience one month may not be the symptoms you experience the next month. Why? Because hormone levels are always fluctuating. One menstrual cycle may produce more progesterone than another, resulting in different types of boob agony.
What Isn’t Normal
Normal period boob pain radiates evenly throughout both breasts. You can also expect nipples to be sore or extra tender, and swelling should be equal among your breasts as well. Basically, you want equal-opportunity boob misery. Aside from that, the spectrum of period boobs is expansive. It’s normal to have dense, heavy breasts that don’t feel painful, and it’s normal to have regular-sized breasts that hurt like crazy. Even a bit of lumpiness — which is typically alarming — is to be expected in the week or two leading up to your period. The thing you’re really looking for is both breasts feel the same way, and the symptoms subside when your period starts.
What’s abnormal is for the pain to persist long past the start of your period, or for one breast to hurt and the other to be totally fine. Brightman says uneven swelling is to be expected — no two boobs are the same size! But one-sided breast pain can be indicative of a cyst or other types of benign lumps like infections or a bruise. “Cancer, which is everyone’s fear, would be extremely rare,” she says. As far as lumps go, those should also go away within the first few days of your period. If you’re in the habit of doing regular, at-home breast exams, feel to make sure those are gone once your period is over. If any lumps persist, it doesn’t hurt to see your doctor.
Breast pain isn’t a common symptom of breast cancer, but there are a few things to look out for. Brightman says to watch for pain associated with a lump in only one breast, pain that persists after your period is over, or uneven swelling or pain. If any of those things are happening to you, or if you just feel your breast pain is severe or causing an inordinate amount of discomfort, talk to your doctor.
For some women, breast pain and swelling is the first sign of pregnancy. If your period is particularly late and your boobs are killing you, persistent boob pain may be an early sign of pregnancy.
How you can (sorta) fix things
Though this sounds counterintuitive because bras are basically small prison cells for your boobs, Brightman says a lot of women find significant pain relief from wearing a really supportive bra — even a sports bra that really holds things in place. All that jostling and motion may only be making you painfully more aware of your breasts, which, if they’re already throbbing, is a bad thing. Some of Brightman’s patients even find that sleeping in a bra (sacrilege!) brings significant relief to their period boobs.
All the other remedies are also anecdotal, so really it’s just about finding something that works for you. Some women find out that cutting out caffeine reduces breast pain, and others find that taking vitamin E, B6 supplements, or evening primrose oil is the true cure. For some, it’s as simple as popping a couple of ibuprofen or acetaminophen pills as if the breast pain is just another headache (which, honestly, it really is). The only thing Brightman wouldn’t recommend for calming down your swollen boobies is taking a diuretic, or some sort of water pill — they can cause dehydration, and shouldn’t be relied upon.
This particular period symptom is really annoying because it’s so unpredictable. Some months, your breasts may be tiny angels that don’t cause you a single problem, and other months they could be the bane of your womanly existence. The best thing to know, really, is that you’re far from alone in the urge to hold your breasts to your chest every time you walk down the stairs for a week out of every month. Just like our big, swollen period boobs squished together in a restrictive sports bra, we’re all in this together.
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Hannah Smothers Hannah writes about health, sex, and relationships for Cosmopolitan, and you can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
Ten reasons why cramps happen after your period
Below are some possible causes of cramps that occur after menstruation.
A woman may feel cramps during ovulation — when an ovary releases an egg. Ovulation occurs around the middle of the menstrual cycle. These cramps are called mittelschmerz.
Ovulation is a part of most regular menstrual cycles. A person may or may not be able to feel it happening.
Ovulation cramps often affect one side of the body. They may last for a few minutes or a couple of days and will go away on their own.
Mild uterine cramps can be a very early sign of pregnancy. These cramps are associated with implantation — when a fertilized egg or embryo attaches itself to the uterus lining.
Implantation-related cramps are mild and temporary, and often accompany dark red or brown spotting, known as implantation bleeding. This bleeding occurs around the time that the next period would be due.
Other symptoms of pregnancy may occur during this time, such as breast heaviness, increased urination, and mood changes.
The best way to test for pregnancy is to take a test at home or in a doctor’s office.
An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the fertilized egg attaches itself anywhere outside the uterus.
Ectopic pregnancies begin like regular pregnancies, but a woman may soon experience severe cramping and pain in the uterus.
Other symptoms may include:
- abnormal bleeding
- sharp, often severe pelvic pain
- shoulder pain
The pressure involved in an ectopic pregnancy can cause the fallopian tube to rupture. This can result in heavy bleeding, which may lead to fainting, shock, or feeling lightheaded. A ruptured fallopian tube requires emergency medical care.
Ectopic pregnancies are not common, occurring in around 2 percent of pregnancies.
4. Uterine incapacity
In some cases, an amount of blood will remain in the uterus after the period has ended. When this happens, the uterus contracts to remove the extra blood.
These contractions can cause cramping and may also result in brown or black spotting as the old blood is pushed out.
Symptoms will usually go away within a few days as the body gets rid of the leftover blood.
Share on PinterestEndometriosis may cause period cramps, and is a condition that needs to be managed carefully.
Endometriosis is a condition that causes uterine tissue to grow outside the uterus. Endometriosis can be managed, but there is currently no cure.
Associated pain may occur 1 to 2 weeks before menstruation. Pain can be unusually intense 1 to 2 days before the period begins.
Other symptoms of endometriosis include:
- heavy periods
- painful ovulation
- pain in the lower abdomen or back
- pain during or after sex
Constant pelvic pain or abdominal cramps that get worse during menstruation should be discussed with a doctor.
Adenomyosis causes endometrial tissue to grow in the muscles of the uterus, rather than in the uterine lining.
This makes the uterine walls thicker, which can lead to especially heavy menstrual bleeding and prolonged cramping.
Adenomyosis is treated with medication. In some extreme cases, a hysterectomy may be required.
7. Ovarian cysts
Cysts forming in the ovaries can cause cramps and bleeding after the period has ended.
Most cysts will clear up on their own, but if they are especially large, they may cause other symptoms.
Ovarian cysts can make the abdomen and pelvis feel bloated or heavy. There may also be some spotting or bleeding before or after their period.
Ovarian cysts are typically treated with medication or surgery.
8. Uterine fibroids
Fibroids are benign, noncancerous growths that can form anywhere in the uterus. Symptoms differ based on the location, size, and number of fibroids in the uterus.
Uterine fibroids may cause symptoms such as:
- irregular bleeding
- especially heavy menstruation
- long-lasting menstruation
- pressure or pain in the pelvis
- difficulty urinating or frequent urination
In some cases, uterine fibroids can cause infertility. They are often treated with medication, surgery, or a combination of the two.
9. Cervical stenosis
Some women have a smaller opening in their cervix. This is called cervical stenosis, and it can slow down the menstrual flow, which may cause painful pressure in the uterus.
Cervical stenosis can be treated with medication or surgery. Alternatively, an intrauterine device (IUD) may relieve symptoms.
10. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
Pain in the uterus or vagina accompanied by foul-smelling discharge can be a sign of a vaginal or uterine infection. This may cause PID if the bacteria move into other areas of the reproductive system.
Symptoms may not be obvious at first, and may begin with a sudden and persistent cramp-like pain in the abdomen. PID can become life-threatening if not correctly treated.
Other symptoms of PID include:
- heavy or abnormal vaginal discharge
- abnormal menstrual bleeding
- general fatigue
- flu-like symptoms, such as a fever or chills
- pain, discomfort, or bleeding during intercourse
- difficult or painful urination
PID is often treatable with antibiotics. Any sexual partners should be tested for sexually transmitted infections.
Sometimes it’s easy to think your boobs have mystical powers, especially when it comes to predicting when your period will arrive. For some women, sore, sometimes painful breasts are a good tip-off that Aunt Flo is about to make a visit. While the heads-up is nice, sore breasts can be uncomfortable as hell.
Of course, this doesn’t happen to everyone before their period. And if you fall into the sore-boob camp, you’ve probably dealt with it for your entire period-having life and never given it much thought (other than wondering why you have this not-so-fun side effect on top of the utter joy of actually having a period). But there’s a very real reason why sore breasts around your period are a thing, and even better, there are ways to find relief.
Breast soreness related to menstruation has a medical name: cyclical mastalgia. As you can probably guess, it has a lot to do with hormones.
The jury is still out on the exact mechanisms behind breast soreness during your period. But experts do know that hormone levels fluctuate before and during your period, and that can impact how your boobs feel, Sherry A. Ross, M.D., a women’s health expert and author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health. Period, tells SELF.
Specifically, increasing levels of estrogen in the first two weeks of your cycle can cause your breasts to get bigger, while increasing amounts of progesterone during the second half may make your milk ducts puff up. “Together this results in swelling and breast tenderness,” women’s health expert Jennifer Wider, M.D., tells SELF. Hormonal fluctuations can also lead to fibrocystic breast changes (i.e., developing non-cancerous lumps in your boobs) before your period, which can contribute to tenderness, according to the Mayo Clinic.
You may have heard that tender boobs are common during pregnancy, and it’s due to a similar mechanism. During pregnancy, progesterone levels continue to rise in a woman’s body, so breast soreness may happen and last for some time even though your period is MIA, Dr. Wider says.
Sore breasts might seem like a fact of life, but you don’t need to just suffer through the experience.
Taking an NSAID like Motrin or Aleve can help with the inflammation, Susan Loeb-Zeitlin, M.D., an ob/gyn at NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine, tells SELF. Making sure your bras fit correctly can also help, she says, since having a too-loose or too-tight fit can make your boobs feel worse.
If you’re on combined hormonal birth control and boob soreness is new to you, it’s worth looking into other options, Dr. Ross says. Birth control impacts everyone differently, but some forms that use less estrogen can help reduce the pain. You can also try putting a warm compress on your boobs to promote blood flow, Dr. Wider says, which can help relieve muscle tension that makes breast soreness worse.
In the vast majority of cases, breast tenderness around your period is normal and harmless (other than making you uncomfortable). But in some very rare cases, breast tenderness can be a sign of breast cancer, Dr. Loeb-Zeitlin says, specifically a rare and aggressive kind called inflammatory breast cancer. This is more likely if the tenderness is on one side and you’ve never experienced it before. Again, that’s not common and really not something you should stress about, especially since inflammatory breast cancer only makes up 1 to 5 percent of breast cancer diagnoses in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute. If you’re having sore breasts along with symptoms like nipple discharge, dimpling, or a rash, head to your doctor just in case.
And even if the only thing you’re dealing with is period-related boob soreness, you can and should still bring it up with your doctor if it’s bothering you. Together, you can figure out the best way for you—and your breasts—to find some relief.
- 6 Things That Can Actually Impact Your Breast Size
- This Is When You Should Call Your Doctor After a Missed Period
- Here’s Why One Boob Is Sometimes Bigger Than the Other
Premenstrual Breast Swelling and Tenderness
Premenstrual breast pain can be treated effectively with over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as:
- naproxen sodium
These medications can also relieve cramping associated with PMS.
Women with moderate to severe breast swelling and discomfort should consult their doctor about the best course of treatment. Diuretics can reduce swelling, tenderness, and water retention. However, diuretic medications increase your urine output and can also increase your risk of dehydration. Use such prescriptions carefully under your doctor’s direction.
Hormonal birth control, including oral contraceptive pills, could also calm your premenstrual breast symptoms. Ask your healthcare provider about these options if you experience severe breast pain and are not interested in becoming pregnant in the near future.
If your pain is severe, your doctor may recommend the drug Danazol, which is used to treat endometriosis and symptoms of fibrotic breast disease. This drug can have serious side effects so it should only be used if other treatments don’t work.
Lifestyle changes can also help manage premenstrual breast swelling and tenderness. Wear a supportive sports bra when symptoms are at their worst. You may choose to wear the bra at night as well, to provide extra support while you sleep.
Diet can play a role in breast pain. Caffeine, alcohol, and foods that are high in fat and salt can increase discomfort. Reducing or eliminating these substances from your diet in the week or two before your period may help manage or prevent symptoms.
Certain vitamins and minerals may also help relieve breast pain and related PMS symptoms. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health recommends consuming 400 international units (IU) of vitamin E and 400 milligrams of magnesium daily to help ease PMS symptoms. You can find a variety of options here. Since supplements are not monitored by the FDA, choose from a reputable manufacturer.
Choose a variety of foods rich in these nutrients, such as:
- corn, olive, safflower, and canola oils
- oat bran
- brown rice
Your doctor may also recommend vitamin supplements.
Self-examinations can also help monitor any changes in breast tissue. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), women in their 20s and 30s should perform breast self-exams once per month, typically after their monthly period, when swelling and tenderness are minimal. Mammograms are advised after age 45 and may be considered earlier. Your doctor may recommend mammograms every two years or more if there is low risk.
Exercise can also improve breast soreness, cramps, and fatigue associated with PMS.
Periods and sore breasts
An introduction to periods and sore breasts
Sore breasts (mastalgia) are a common symptom of menstrual periods. Women often describe their breasts as feeling swollen, tender, heavy or lumpy. The pain can be sharp or instead be felt as a dull ache. The pain can also radiate towards the armpits in some cases. These symptoms are often perfectly normal and are no real cause for concern as I go on to explain.
Hormones are normally to blame for the changes in your breasts; your breast tissue is extremely hormone-sensitive. Women commonly report breast pain in the early stages of pregnancy and before menstruation as your hormones tend to be running wild around these times. However, the extent to which specific hormones are to blame isn’t exactly clear.
During the second half of your menstrual cycle you experience bigger fluctuations in your sex hormones and as a result of this many women suffer from sore breasts during this time, in particular, in the week or days before your period. Often the pain eases off once your period has started.
Bloating and water retention (other common symptoms of menstrual periods) can add to the problem and can leave you with heavy, swollen breasts.
Are there any warning signs to look out for?
At certain times of the month your breasts can feel lumpier and this is perfectly normal for many women. However, lumpy breasts could be a sign of fibrocystic disease. This is a benign condition characterised by the formation of small cysts on the breast tissue. This can give rise to painful breasts, especially around the time of your period.
As women get older, breast cancer is also a big concern. I advise you get used to the shape and feel of your breasts and get to know what is normal for you.
Cyclical mastalgia is breast pain which is linked to the menstrual cycle, and you may find lumps are more noticeable in the lead up to your period each month. Keeping a period symptom diary can be useful to help you to determine if similar changes occur at around the same time each month.
However, if you have pain or notice lumps which don’t seem to be cyclical you may wish to pay a trip to your doctor. Most forms of breast cancer don’t cause pain but if you do happen to experience non-cyclic sensitivity or lumps (either in the breast tissue or under your armpit), any discharge from the nipple, dimpling of the skin, a change in size or shape of your breasts, or a change in colour, you should consider visiting your GP who can perform a physical examination.
How can your period cause sore breasts?
Hormones are thought to be the main cause of sore breasts as a symptom menstrual period. From the middle of your menstrual cycle onwards, women typically experience fluctuations in both oestrogen and progesterone. These fluctuations can vary from woman to woman and some are more pronounced than others. It is thought that oestrogen dominance can give rise to sore breasts as oestrogen causes the breast ducts to swell. However, progesterone may also have an impact as it can affect the milk glands within the breast which can also become swollen and sensitive.
Beware of hormonal contraceptives potentially making breast pain worse. These contain synthetic forms of oestrogen and progesterone (in different ratios and amouts depending on the type) and these could potentially be adding to your discomfort.
Although oestrogen and progesterone are thought to be the main instigators of breast pain, other hormones may also have a part to play, such as prolactin or cortisol. Stress can have a big impact on other hormones around the body.
Dietary and lifestyle factors
There are some dietary and lifestyle factors which can help if you suffer from sore breasts, these are as follows:
- Limit stress – Stress can put pressure on your adrenal glands. This can have a domino effect on the rest of your endocrine system and your sex hormones can be thrown off. Your breasts are thought to be especially sensitive to oestrogen which can easily fluctuate in times of stress. Look out for heavy, painful periods and mood swings alongside your sore breasts which could suggest your oestrogen is elevated
- Dietary considerations – It is important to consider how much salt and caffeine you have in your diet. Salt can contribute to water retention and caffeine can affect your adrenal glands in a similar way that stress can. Eat fresh, wholefoods rich in vitamins and minerals and avoid salt, caffeine and sugar as much as possible
- Get a bra that fits – You might assume that your bra fits perfectly but it would surprise you how many women are wearing ill-fitting bras! Many places offer a free fitting service and a bra that fits properly can make a big difference to how comfortable you are. This is especially important if you are exercising around the time of your period as your breasts can suddenly become much more sensitive to movement.
Herbal remedies to help
There are some herbal remedies which could help if you suffer from cyclic mastalgia on a monthly basis.
Agnus castus is a licensed herbal remedy which can help to gently correct hormone imbalance and relieve symptoms of PMS including sore breast, menstrual cramps and mood swings.
Please note, if you are taking hormonal contraceptives such as the pill, hormone-balancing herbal remedies may not be suitable for you.
If you think stress is a factor which is potentially upsetting your menstrual cycle and the associated symptoms, often it is a useful first step to address this issue first – it can really make a difference. AvenaCalm is a licensed herbal remedy which can help address mild stress and anxiety.
How can my doctor help?
If sore breasts around the time of your period are problematic or you are worried about breast pain, I recommend you pay a visit to your doctor. Your GP can conduct a physical examination and for woman over the age of 50 you should be attending routine mammograms every 3 years.
For cyclic mastalgia, your doctor might suggest over the counter pain killers, anti-inflammatory medication or hormonal contraception, for example the pill. The pill can help to regulate your hormones and stop fluctuations which are affecting your breasts.
Always discuss all options with your GP in order to determine what’s best for you.
Some breast tenderness is normal. The discomfort may be caused by hormone changes from:
- Menopause (unless a woman is taking hormone replacement therapy)
- Menstruation and premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
- Pregnancy — breast tenderness tends to be more common during the first trimester
- Puberty in both girls and boys
Soon after having a baby, a woman’s breasts may become swollen with milk. This can be very painful. If you also have an area of redness, call your health care provider, as this may be a sign of an infection or other more serious breast problem.
Breastfeeding itself may also cause breast pain.
Fibrocystic breast changes are a common cause of breast pain. Fibrocystic breast tissue contains lumps or cysts that tend to be more tender just before your menstrual period.
Certain medicines may also cause breast pain, including:
- Water pills (diuretics)
- Digitalis preparations
Shingles can lead to pain in the breast if the painful blistering rash appears on the skin of your breasts.
Your Boobs Are Sore Because You’re Getting Your Period
When our breasts feel weird, we often jump to the worst possible conclusions: Does breast pain mean that I have breast cancer? Or are my boobs sore because I’m getting my period — or because I’m pregnant? Am I going to have to appear on one of those I Didn’t Know That I Was Pregnant shows now?
Here’s the good news: Breasts feel sore for all different kinds of reasons, most of which are nothing to be concerned about. And despite the paranoia that can take hold when anything in our chest area feels off, breast pain is rarely a breast cancer symptom. In fact, the only form of cancer linked to breast pain is inflammatory breast cancer, an uncommon form of the disease which, according to the National Cancer Institute, only accounts for one to five percent of the breast cancer diagnoses in the United States. So unless your breast soreness is accompanied by other symptoms or signs, you’re probably in the clear.
But just because you’re likely not in danger, that doesn’t mean that you should just ignore any aches, soreness, or other unusual feelings in your breasts. When your breasts feel strange, they’re usually trying to communicate something. And yes, sometimes, what they are trying to tell you is that your eggo is preggo. But more often, they’re communicating subtle messages about your body, your hormones, and even your clothes that come up over the course of your day-to-day life. Join me, as we discover the secret reasons that your boobs feel weird.
1. You’re About To Get Your Period
Photo credit: Stock-Asso/
This is likely the most common form of breast pain, and is tied to the body’s hormonal schedule. Production of progesterone, a hormone tied to menstruation, peaks in the week before you get your period (around day 21 in a 28-day cycle). This can cause expansion of the milk ducts, small “tubes” located inside the breast, and lead to pre-menstrual breast tenderness. There’s no medically proven way to prevent this kind of breast pain, though taking an over-the-counter pain reliever or using a heating pad might help dull the pain after it begins.
According to Johns Hopkins University Medicine, this is what is called a “cyclical” form of breast pain, meaning that it occurs on a regular schedule tied to your periods. If you’re getting it every month, right around the same time, you don’t need to be concerned — it’s normal. Crappy, but normal! In fact, if your cycles are super regular, you can use this breast soreness to actually feel when your period is on its way (and choose which underpants to wear accordingly, maybe). There are definitely some period symptoms you shouldn’t ignore, but this one, at least, is business as usual.
2. You’re About to Stop Getting Your Period Forever
Just as regularly occurring monthly breast pain might be a signal that your reproductive cycle are proceeding as scheduled, unpredictable breast pain can be a sign that your reproductive organs are closing up shop.
According to the Mayo Clinic, random breast pain can be a sign of perimenopause —the first stage of menopause, a bodily process in which certain hormones related to reproduction stop being produced. Perimenopause usually begins in one’s 40s, but can start as early as your mid-30s — so if you’re in that age demographic and are beginning to also experience other symptoms, such as irregular periods, it’s worth chatting with your doctor.
But if you’re younger, don’t freak out that you’re somehow going into early menopause if your boobs seem to suddenly be aching at all different times of the month — premature menopause is rare, and the odds that you have it, especially absent any of the other symptoms (like not getting your period) or common causes (like ovary removal), are very, very low.
3. You’re Pregnant
Photo credit: Rawpixel.com/
Progesterone — the same hormone that causes breast soreness during your menstrual cycle — also jumps in production in the early days of a pregnancy. This is why, for many people, breast soreness is a major sign of pregnancy — in fact, according to the American Pregnancy Association, 17% of pregnant people say breast tenderness was the first pregnancy symptom they experienced.
In the event that this information scares the hell out of you (it certainly scared the hell out of me), take comfort in the fact that many pregnant people say that there are differences between pregnancy breast pain and period breast pain — according to Cleveland Clinic, the former is often more intense, and is usually accompanied by other early pregnancy symptoms, like nausea. That said, there are other subtle signs that you may be pregnant to watch out for, so if you’re experiencing that in conjunction with breast pain, it might be worth getting a test.
4. You Need A Better Bra
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, an improperly fitted bra can cause breast pain — a too-small bra can pinch or poke, while a too-large bra might inadequately support your chest buddies, leaving them feeling sore at the day’s end.
The good news is that this pain has an easy fix: get a professional bra fitting at your local bra-specialty shop or department-store lingerie section. At a fitting, specially trained salespeople measure your breasts, tell you that you’ve been wearing the wrong size for years, and then demand that you throw your stretched-out Victoria’s Secret Angel bra in the garbage right now. It’s honestly a great way to spend an afternoon.
5. You’re Over-Caffeinated
Photo credit: Halfpoint/
A 1989 study in Nurse Practitioner found that consuming large amounts of caffeine can increase breast pain, especially for people with fibrocystic (read: lumpier) breasts, which are often more vulnerable to breast pain to begin with. Though no follow-up studies seem to have found the same results, the Mayo Clinic reports that many people anecdotally report that cutting down on caffeine lessens their breast pain, especially for folks with breast cysts.
6. You Have An Infected Breast
Breast infections like mastitis almost exclusively effect people who are actively breast-feeding. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, those infections usually also involve other symptoms in addition to breast pain, like breast swelling, nipple discharge, swollen lymph nodes, and flu-like symptoms.
The condition can usually be easily treated with antibiotics, so make sure to see a doctor if you suspect you might have a breast infection. Lack of treatment can lead to abscesses on the breast, and other complications that make aching pre-period breasts sound like a free trip to Disneyland.
7. You’ve Pulled A Muscle
Photo credit: ShotPrime Studio/
Physical activities that engage the pectorals — like playing rugby, shoveling snow, or trying to lift a huge chair over your head to win a bet — can strain chest muscles, like the pectoralis major. This strain, which can feel like it’s emanating from inside the breast, is actually in the muscle below the breast tissue. While it’s a fairly rare injury, it can require surgery to heal in some cases, so please, see a doctor if you think you may have sprained your boob.
Breast Pain: Why Do My Boobs Hurt?
From a dull ache to a sharp stab, breasts hurt in a hundred different ways for a hundred different reasons. For many women, those myriad aches and stabs are the results of normal, healthy hormone fluctuations related to their menstrual cycles.
“Pain is most common during that period of a woman’s cycle just before she menstruates, when hormones like estrogen and progesterone peak,” says Karthik Ghosh, MD, director of the breast clinic at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
You probably already knew that. But when your hormones go haywire, why do your breasts feel beat up? Rising estrogen levels stimulate the breasts’ milk ducts, while spiking progesterone does the same to a woman’s milk glands. Both can result in swelling and pain. Progesterone also causes fluid retention, which can lead to a feeling of heaviness or tenderness, Ghosh says.
With the onset of menstruation, levels of those hormones drop off, Ghosh says. For that reason, breast pain or tenderness tends to subside as soon as a woman starts her period. Because oral contraceptives iron out those hormonal peaks and valleys, women on birth control often don’t experience this monthly ebb and flow of aching. (But when women first start a contraceptive like the pill, some pain is common.)
Many women also experience cysts, which result when pockets of fluid form within the ducts of the breast. These cysts can sometimes be painful, says Dr. Susan Harvey, director of the Johns Hopkins Breast Imaging Section.
Young women in puberty, pregnant women and older women nearing menopause may all experience breast pain due to hormone fluctuations, says Dr. Bonmyong Lee, Harvey’s colleague and an assistant professor of radiology at Johns Hopkins. Particularly during the early stages of menopause, women who may have never had pain or cysts may suddenly start to experience both, Lee says.
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Apart from these hormone-related issues, Ghosh says anything that causes chest wall muscle soreness—like starting a new workout—can cause what’s called secondary pain in the breasts. Many women who exercise regularly experience discomfort and even pain in their breasts from the constant movement. A survey of close to 1,400 women registered for the 2012 London Marathon, published in the journal The British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2013, reported that over a third of the women said their breasts were often sore. Though exercise may not have been the cause of breast pain for all the women, the researchers say it was a predominant factor. Even so, 44% of the women said they did not take any measures to relieve the pain even though it was uncomfortable.
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Pain can also be caused by a common type of inflammation, called costochondritus, which affects the place where a woman’s ribs and sternum come together. Even an unsupportive brassiere can allow the breasts to pull on the chest wall, leading to pain, Ghosh says.
One condition that tends not to cause pain is cancer. For women who may notice a lump that is sensitive or painful, it’s more likely a benign cyst, Ghosh says. Still, she recommends seeing a doctor if you find a lump, painful or otherwise.
There are several less common or unproven causes of breast pain, from infection to caffeine consumption. So how can you determine whether to worry or brush it off? If the pain is concentrated in one part of your breast and doesn’t subside after a few weeks, see someone, Harvey says. You should also visit a doctor if your skin is flushed or red, which may be a sign of an infection.
“There’s no golden rule when it comes to identifying specific types of breast pain,” Ghosh says. “If it worries you or seems out of the ordinary, see a doctor.”
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How to reduce breast pain before period?
While cyclical breast pain tends to subside on its own at the start of the period, there are a number of ways in which you can reduce or manage the breast soreness and pain. The following are some of the effective methods of doing so:
- Reduce/eliminate caffeine intake: Since studies have linked high consumption of caffeine with breast pain, try reducing your daily coffee intake, or switch to decaf for effective results. This also means reducing your intake of all drinks and foods with caffeine, such a soft drinks, energy drinks, tea, chocolates etc.
- Follow a low fat diet: Adopting a diet which is low in fat has been shown to reduce breast tenderness, according to research. Switch high fat foods with wholesome, high fibre alternatives such as whole grains and vegetables, along with complex carbohydrates.
- Wear a firm, supportive bra: Go for a properly supportive bra, preferably fitted by a professional, to make sure your breasts receive adequate support. Since breast tissue is delicate,the right fitting bra helps minimize breast movement, reducing the pain associated with excess swaying of the breasts. Also, wearing a bra at night is not a good idea, as it can interfere with blood circulation and lymphatic drainage, causing inflammation and swelling of the breasts.
- Relaxation techniques: Gentle exercise, simple breathing exercises, massage, aromatherapy and deep breathing have all been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. This could help ease high levels of anxiety that cause breast soreness.
- Painkillers: Taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen can provide temporary relief. However, long term of such medicines should be avoided, as it may cause liver damage. It is advised to discuss the use of painkillers for breast soreness with your doctor before proceeding.
- Change birth control method: If you’re taking birth control pills, its hormonal content may be causing breast soreness and pain. It is worth looking into other non-hormonal contraceptive options, in consultation with your doctor.
- Reducing HRT dosage: If you’re currently undergoing hormone replacement therapy, it may be worthwhile to explore reducing the dosage of the hormones with your doctor, to alleviate breast pain.
- Prescription medication: Medicines like Danazol and Bromocriptine had been used in the past the treat breast pain. However, their side effects, ranging from changes (hoarseness) in voice, abnormal body hair growth, weight gain to hot flushes and more, are considerably worse than the symptoms they are used to treat. It is advised to avoid usage of these medicines and go for alternative treatments in consultation with your doctor.
Why do my boobs hurt before my period?
Read more about ESTROGEN here
While it might seem an inevitability of a monthly cycle, it is important to note that any PMS should only last a short amount of time – anything longer than a week should be checked out by your healthcare professional.
There are also diet and lifestyle solutions that you can adopt…
One of the best ways to support the natural balance of oestrogen is to optimise the function of your bowel and your liver, as these are the two main organs responsible for the detoxification of hormones. To support healthy liver function consider limiting your consumption of alcohol, caffeine and sugar. Load up on foods such as broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower as these all contain a phytochemical called sulforaphane which supports the liver’s natural detoxification of oestrogen.
Fibre also helps with the excretion of oestrogen by binding to it in the gut and removing it via the bowel, as well as helping to feed our friendly gut bacteria, which influence everything from oestrogen metabolism and our mood, to our immune system and our weight. We can’t stress enough how important eating fibre is – and most women don’t eat enough.
If you’re looking for natural pain relief, then vitamin B6 is your friend: it helps to regulate the production of the neurotransmitters serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). These are the chemicals which help us to feel happy and calm, and also play a role in reducing pain and other PMS symptoms. No more than 200mg/day of B6 should be taken.
Iodine deficiency is often associated with breast tenderness due to its impact on prolactin levels and it’s a mineral which is notoriously low in the UK diet. Iodine also influences genes involved in oestrogen detoxification – so including it in your diet is a double win. Seaweed is a great source of dietary iodine, but so are eggs and seafood if nori rolls aren’t your thing. Speak to a healthcare practitioner before supplementing with iodine as it has a very small dosage range and can cause severe problems if too much is taken.
Along with diet, there are lifestyle factors at play too, such as our plastic usage. Xenoestrogens are synthetic forms of oestrogen which are well-documented hormone disruptors. The most well-known xenoestrogen is bisphenol-A (BPA) found in plastics such as cling film, water bottles and the lining of takeaway coffee cups. BPA has been found to mimic oestrogen, adding to the levels already in our body, and there are concerns that high-circulating oestrogen is not good for our breast health. So it makes sense to make switches where you can.
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Exercise, proper sleeping patterns and stress management are also recommended to support hormone balance and reduce breast tenderness – watch your own cycle and symptoms and work out the best plan of action for you, or talk to a qualified naturopath, nutritional therapist or integrative GP to identify and treat the cause of any menstrual irregularities you may be experiencing. Because whilst PMS is common, there is much that can be done to manage it.
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My Breasts Ache During My Period. What Can I Do?
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Before I start my period, I get aches in my breasts. This happens every time. Will it go away when my breasts finish developing? And will wearing a more supportive bra help?
Lots of girls get aching in their breasts before their periods start. The aches are caused by a decrease in the hormones estrogen and progesterone, which are responsible for a girl’s menstrual cycle.
For some girls, these aches happen less often as they grow older. But that’s not the case for everyone. Some women continue to get aches in their breasts for as long as they have their periods, which is completely normal.
So what can you do? Cutting back on salt, sugar, caffeine, and dairy may help. You might feel more comfortable if you wear a supportive bra during this time. Taking an over-the-counter pain reliever like ibuprofen or naproxen can help reduce pain.
Regular exercise also may help lessen menstrual breast pain. Obviously, certain types of exercise (like running) may make things worse during the time when your breasts are hurting. So on those days, stick with an exercise that is lower impact, such as biking or walking.
*Names have been changed to protect user privacy.
Reviewed by: Julia Brown Lancaster, MSN, WHNP-BC Date reviewed: November 2015
Summit Medical Group Web Site
What is breast tenderness?
Breast tenderness is pain or discomfort in the breasts. It is the most common breast symptom women have. It is usually not a sign of breast cancer.
What is the cause?
The most common cause of breast tenderness is called fibrocystic breast changes. These changes are caused by the swelling of very tiny fluid-filled cysts in fibrous tissue in the breast. The changes usually happen in both breasts 7 to 10 days before your menstrual period. They begin to go away when your period starts and are usually gone by the time your period ends.
Other causes of breast tenderness include:
- Puberty (in boys as well as girls)
- Pregnancy (In the first part of pregnancy, your breasts and nipples can become very tender to the touch and easily irritated. Breast pain later in pregnancy may be due to the weight of breasts that have become enlarged and heavy.)
- Infection of the breast
- Hormone imbalance, especially too much estrogen
- Birth control pills
- Breast-feeding, when the breasts become full of milk (engorged)
- Injury of the breast
- A noncancerous tumor in the breast called a fibroma
- A condition called hyperprolactinemia, which means your body is producing a high level of the milk-producing hormone prolactin
- Breast cancer, but often cancer does not cause any pain
How is it diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and medical history and examine your breasts. Tests may include:
- A mammogram, which is a special X-ray of the breast
- Ultrasound, which uses sound waves to show pictures of the breast
- Thermography of the breasts, which is a heat test that outlines the breast in a color pattern
- A biopsy, which is removal of a small sample of tissue or fluid for testing
- Exam of discharge from a nipple
- Blood tests
How is it treated?
Often no medical treatment is needed. Your healthcare provider may recommend that you:
- Wear a bra that gives good support, especially if you exercise or have large breasts.
- Put heat on your breast with a covered warm water bottle, warm moist cloths, or a heating pad set at the lowest heat setting.
- Take nonprescription pain-relief medicine as recommended by your healthcare provider.
- Drink fewer or no beverages with caffeine.
In some cases your healthcare provider may prescribe hormones or other medicine. If you have an infection, take the antibiotic prescribed by your provider.
If you are having discomfort from pregnancy-related breast changes, you maybe able to find relief by using a well-fitting maternity bra. These special bras are available at most maternity clothing stores. Some suggestions for finding a maternity bra that is right for you include:
- The straps should be wide and should not stretch very much. Be aware that over time elastic straps may lose their ability to stretch and, therefore, lose their ability to provide support.
- The cup should comfortably hold the entire breast and should fit it in such a way that the nipple is about at the midway level between the elbow and shoulder while your arms are resting by your side.
- The bra should be adjustable so that it can allow for changes to the growing breasts during pregnancy.
Surgery is rarely needed. However, if you have a breast cyst, your healthcare provider may drain or remove it. If you have a fibroma, your healthcare provider may remove it.
How can I take care of myself?
- Follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations for preventing and treating breast tenderness.
- Learn how to examine your breasts after your menstrual period every month. If you no longer have periods, examine your breasts at the same time each month, for example, on the first day of every month.
- If you notice that one breast is tenderer than the other, or there is redness of the skin over an area of breast tenderness, contact your healthcare provider.
- If you keep having problems with breast pain despite treatment, contact your healthcare provider.