Breast Pain! How common it is? Almost, 80 percent of women (and girls) during menstrual cycle and during menopause, suffer from some degree of breast pain. Breast pain, also referred to as breast tenderness, is associated with a lot of conditions in the life of a woman, all of which linked to hormones.
In medical terms, breast pain is called Mastalgia. Breast pain is not a health condition; it is a warning sign or a symptom of a condition.
The term breast pain may simply represent pain in the breast. To be more precise, however, it also includes various discomforts and pain in different forms. The intensity of the pain along with discomfort may vary extensively from mild, manageable to devastating! Let’s see, how breast pain differs from one another.
Types of Breast Pain
Breast pain is classified into two types, cyclical pain and non-cyclical pain.
Cyclical Breast Pain
As indicated by its name, women experience cyclic breast pain during menstrual cycle and a few days before and after menstruation. It is associated with the fluctuation of hormones in the body. Around 70% of the women experience or suffer from breast pain due to menstruation. Needless to say, this is one of the common types of breast pain. Those suffering from cyclic breast pain may feel discomfort and lumpiness in both the breasts. It can be mild to severe and there can be heaviness, tenderness, burning, prickling or stabbing pain, or a feeling of tightness in the breast.
The breast pain in such cases eases away on its own without any treatment once the menstruation period is over.
Non-cyclical Breast Pain
Contrary to cyclic pain, non cyclic breast pain is not associated with menstruation period. Any form of breast pain that occurs frequently or remain constant can be categorized as non-cyclic breast pain. It can also occur during, before and after menstruation as well as at other times. This is one of the less frequent types of breast pain. The pain can occur in one or both the breast and may affect the whole breast or only a specific area. You can feel burning, prickling or stabbing pain. Sometimes tightness in breasts can also be felt.
Non-cyclical breast pain tends to settle down by itself in many women but in some it doesn’t reduce on its own.
Possible Causes of Breast Pain
Understanding the causes of breast pain helps dealing the pain with ease.
Causes of Cyclical Breast Pain
Hormonal fluctuation is the possible cause of such type of breast pain. The breast tissues are affected due to the fluctuation in hormones. It causes mild blockage and abrasion inside the breast, which result with breast tenderness. Soon after the completion of the hormonal cycle, the body turns normal and the breast pain subsides.
It is apparent that cyclical breast pain appears during menstruation. Breast pain occurs mostly during,
- Menstrual cycle
- Muscle cramps during pre-menstrual syndrome
- Pre-menopause and during menopause
Cyclic breast pain goes away without any treatment after a few months of menopause.
Causes of Non-cyclical Breast Pain
There are many causes to a non-cyclical breast pain. The major causes include the following:
- Injury or trauma to breasts
- Breast surgery
- Certain benign breast conditions (not cancerous)
- Hormonal imbalance
- Poor Posture
- Large size of breasts
- Wearing the wrong sized bra
- Side effects of certain medications
- Water retention / fluid retention in the body
- Chronic gastritis
- Frequent intake of oral contraceptives (since it regulate the hormones, it sometimes lead to breast pain as a side effect)
How to Deal with Breast Pain Naturally?
Breast pain can be managed effectively with some simple remedies. Following are some of the simple home remedies to reduce breast pain.
Massaging is a simple technique that can stimulate blood flow, strengthen the muscles and reduce the swelling as well as pain. You can self-massage the breast to reduce the pain.
- Massaging helps manage healthy breast tissues.
- It enables absorption of more nutrients.
- Keeps the breasts firm
- Drains the lymph glands and reduces inflammation and lumps.
- Reduces the risk of getting infected.
Massaging the breast also reduces the pain caused due to wrong posture, wearing wrong size bra, heaviness of breast due to overweight, etc.
What to use for breast massage?
It is recommended to choose an oil or essential oil mixed with a carrier oil to massage the breast. Although there are no restrictions on using any kind of oil or skincare lotion to self massage the breast, using the following oils can provide additional benefits and quickly relieve breast pain.
Castor Oil Massage
Castor oil has been used as a home remedy for ages and has a great significance in alternative medicines. Castor oil contains ricinoleic acid which is a powerful analgesic and contains anti-inflammatory properties. It also aids in proper circulation and absorption of nutrients.
Since castor oil is quite dense than other oils, you can dilute it with olive oil or coconut oil for easy application.
In simple terms, castor oil massage is a breast cleansing massage!
Evening Primrose Oil
Evening primrose oil is a very popular remedy for breast pain. The key ingredient of this oil is Gamolenic Acid, called GLA. GLA is nothing but a type of Fatty Acid (similar to omega 3 fatty acids) that helps your body manage and respond towards the hormone disturbances. So, apparently, it eases the breast pain and tenderness.
Precaution: Evening primrose oil is a big no-no for pregnant women and women with the history of epilepsy!
In addition to these, you can also use sesame oil, olive oil and coconut oil to massage the breast. For quick relief, warm the oil, add a small piece of ginger, and use the oil. Ginger is a natural analgesic and reduces swelling.
How to self-massage the breast
You can use either oil or moisturizing lotion to massage the breast. If you can’t spare much time, spend few minutes to massage the breast while you take bath.
- Start massaging from centre of the breast and move your hands towards the armpit for 10 times.
- Massage from bottom breastbone to the top of the neck collar for 10 times.
- Massage in circular motion across the breast.
- Massage in circular motion in the collar bone (clavicle)
Remember, all the massage strokes should be gentle and don’t make it deep tissue massage. Deep tissue massage is intended for enhancing the breast size.
Ice Pack and Heat Therapy
When it comes to pain, ice and heat packs come handy in most of the cases. Ice packs constrict the blood vessels and reduce the inflammation of the muscles and tissues. Heat packs dilate the blood vessels, enables easy flow of blood without hurting the muscles and reduces the pain. So, combination of both or any single therapy can be beneficial to deal with breast pain.
Ice Pack and How to apply ice?
The coldness creates temporary numb sensation in the breast and reduces breast pain.
- Grab a few ice cubes and wrap in a plastic cover or a thin cloth.
- Apply the wrap on the breasts (from collar bone to the ribcage) gently for 5 to 10 minutes.
- You will feel better in 10 to 15 minutes.
- Don’t apply ice cubes directly on the breast.
Instead of ice cubes, you can buy a small water packet, freeze it and apply on the breasts. It can be used any number of times as long as the packet is not damaged.
Heat pack and how to apply heat to breasts?
While applying ice pack on breast is relatively easy, you may need to be extra careful when applying heat to your breasts. The skin of the tender and painful breast may easily get bruised with excessive heat application.
You can apply heat pack in many forms.
- Heat water in a pan, soak a clean piece of cloth and let it turn warm.
- Apply on the breast until the warmth remains.
- Repeat the process again for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Dry roast a handful of crystal salt in a pan.
- Don’t let the salt burn.
- Wrap the roasted salt in a piece of cloth.
- Apply the hot or warm salt poultice on the breast.
- You can just focus on the painful area.
Salt poultice also removes excessive water or fluid from the breasts and keeps it firm. Therefore, it is also good for those who suffer from water retention.
Fennel Tea to Reduce Breast Pain and Discomfort
Fennel is a tiny kernel with sweet aroma and mild tingling flavor! Fennel seeds are known for anti-flatulent and soothing properties for stomach. Fennel seeds (as well as the fennel plant) help in rebalancing the female hormones in the body.
Remember, if you suffer from chronic gastritis or acid reflux, you are more likely to experience the pain in the middle of the breasts, in the chest area. Don’t confuse this pain with breast pain even when it is similar to breast pain. Consuming fennel can provide quick relief from heaviness of the stomach, breasts and reduces pain.
- Add a teaspoon of fennel seeds to the boiling water and drink it.
- Within a few minutes, you can find relief from the breast pain and discomfort.
- You can also add fennel seeds when you brew tea.
Self – Acupressure for Breast Pain
Acupressure is the technique which uses pressure on certain nerve points to get rid of uncomfortable conditions of body. Do self acupressure to reduce the tenderness and pain in the breasts.
- Press the centre part of the chest (the place between the breasts known as Thymus point) with your fingers firmly. It should be firm but a gentle press.
- Do it for a minute and you can find relief from breast pain.
- Press the point on your palms which exactly lies between the middle and index finger. It reduces breast pain.
Avoid Inflammatory Foods
Inflammation of the breasts also leads to pain and tenderness. If you avoid eating the inflammatory foods, you can reduce and manage the pain.
- Eat lesser meat proteins
- Avoid eating hydrogenated oils and foods with transfats. Instead, include a lot of healthy fats (Olive oil, nuts, seeds, coconut oil, etc)
- Reduce sugar consumption as sugar is a trigger to inflammation
- Add anti-inflammatory spices and herbs to the diet such as turmeric and ginger.
- Include soya products in your diet. Soya products can help you manage the breast health and prevent breast issues. So, include soya in your daily diet in any form.
Other Home Remedies for Breast Pain
There are several folklore remedies used for ages to alleviate breast pain. Following are a few remedies you can try to manage the breast pain with ease.
- Extract the fresh cabbage leaves from raw cabbage, place it on the breasts and wrap with a cloth.
- Let it stay for 20 minutes.
- You will find relief from breast pain.
You can also freeze the fresh cabbage leaves and create a wrap.
Peepal Tree Leaves
You need the fresh and broad peepal tree leaves to try this remedy from India. This is very effective in reducing fluid accumulation in the breasts.
- Apply oil (any oil) on the leaves and warm it on a pan.
- You can also directly heat it over a candle. (Don’t burn the leaves)
- Place the warm leaves on the breast.
- Repeat it for 3 to 5 minutes (replace the leaves after using thrice)
Nutritional Requirements to Deal with Breast Pain
As mentioned above, nutritional deficiency also affects breast cells and tissues, causing tenderness and breast pain. Following are some of the key nutrients that can help you regulate the overall breast health. Proper nutrition can reduce the occurrence of pain and tenderness of the breasts caused due to both, cyclic and non-cyclic causes.
Vitamin E is one of the very essential vitamins owing to its amazing health properties. It is not just a vitamin that your skin needs. Women need more vitamin E than men, especially to prevent the risk of breast cancer and various other breast issues.
Women with low level of vitamin E are more likely to experience moderate to intense breast pain. This fact has been proved in a study conducted among a group of women. The group who had sufficient vitamin E experienced low pain to no pain during the periods and pre-menstrual days.
- It protects the breast cells from free radicals.
- Manages the healthy cells and tissues
- Vitamin E protects the selenium in the body. Low vitamin E eventually result with low Selenium.
Iodine is the key nutrient to prevent hypothyroidism. Iodine is also essential to prevent the development of cysts. Low iodine levels lead to fibrocystic disease and painful breasts.
- Iodine is an electron donor and a form of antioxidant.
- It prevents the cells and tissues from oxidative damages.
- Iodine fights infection and regulate immunity.
- Iodine plays a great role in managing the health of breast tissues.
- Breast physiology is regulated by iodine during non-lactating and lactating times.
There is no need for iodine supplement as you can get enough iodine from salt. Cook with black salt or pink salt to increase the iodine intake. However, check with your doctor to assess whether you need a supplement.
Water retention is one of the major problems among women. Fluids may accumulate in the body in any place, including breasts. It is caused mainly due to low potassium levels. Intake of potassium can reduce the fluid accumulation and reduce the pain.
Banana is the rich source of potassium. Coconut water is also a great source for potassium as well as other minerals and vitamins.
Magnesium can be called a painkilling nutrient. Low magnesium levels leads to sore breasts as well as poor muscle health. It also makes you feel extremely tired and affect the overall muscles in the body.
Bananas, soy, fish, nuts and seeds, dried fruits, dark chocolates, etc. are some foods that are rich in magnesium.
These nutrients can alleviate breast pain. Check with your doctor and analyze the need for taking the supplements. If not, you can get these nutrients from foods. Nuts and seeds contain all the above mentioned nutrients in adequate levels. Develop the habit of eating nuts and seeds as a part of diet or snacks.
Manage Hormonal Imbalance to Prevent Breast Pain
Hormonal imbalance is the major cause of breast tenderness which may lead to sharp pain and heaviness of breasts. Estrogen dominance leads to growth of inflammatory breast tissues. Following are some of the causes that leads to dominance of the estrogen, leading towards severe breast pain.
- Nutritional deficiencies or malnutrition
- Poor diet habits, especially not having sufficient dietary fiber
- Constipation again due to lack of fiber in diet
- Stress! It affects all the hormones in women’s body
- High body fat. Body fat produces more estrogen in the body. This is the reason obese women are more likely to suffer from breast pain too often
- Poor liver function lead to slow rate of detoxification by liver. It cannot eliminate unnecessary estrogen from the body.
- Insulin resistance
- Exposure to environmental toxins
- Eat flax seeds. Include flax seeds in your daily diet. Flax seeds contain phytoestrogen, which is a stronger and healthy estrogen that doesn’t harm the breast tissues.
- Eat a lot of fiber rich foods to avoid constipation and drink a lots of water.
- Eat dark green veggies and greens to detox the estrogen from the body.
- Limit dairy consumption at least for a few weeks from your diet. Replace milk with soy or almond milk. However, it can be helpful in some instances, but not for all.
- Regulate the digestive process
- Be physically active
- Try to eat organic foods, produced without the aid of any pesticide and herbicide.
- Eat and drink only from non-plastic vessels, glasses and containers. Say adieu to the soft plastics and foods stored in soft plastics.
How to control estrogen production to deal with and prevent breast pain?
If you are not able to regulate hormones on your own through diet and natural remedies, medical intervention and appropriate treatment is required to treat the conditions associated with breast pain.
How to deal with breast pain during puberty?
It is very common to experience breast pain (sharp pain in the breasts) during puberty. It is the stage where the girls grow breasts due to hormonal changes. A healthy diet can be very beneficial to manage the breast pain. This pain is short lived and doesn’t last long.
How to deal with breast pain during pregnancy?
Similar to puberty, breast pain during pregnancy is common. In fact, breast pain and tenderness are more common signs of pregnancy. It is not recommended to take any painkiller to get rid of the pain and discomfort during pregnancy. It is unavoidable and you have to manage the occasional episodes of breast pain.
The key to managing breast pain during pregnancy is choosing the right bra. The breast size tends to increase throughout your pregnancy every now and then. So, you should find the appropriate bra every time you feel the previous one is not comfortable. Wear a support bra that has a lot of flexibility and adequate support.
- If you find a lot of discomfort, remove the bra when you sleep.
- Be gentle when you take bath, don’t rub the breasts.
How to deal with breast pain as a lactating mother?
Breast pain, soreness and heaviness of the breast are commonly experienced by a lactating mother. Due to secretion of breast milk along with the hormone fluctuations in the body, breast pain is unavoidable. In addition, lactating mothers feel like having a heavy stone in the breasts!
- Give a mild breast massage with warm water to minimize the heavy feeling.
- Choose the right lactating bra that can fit perfectly regardless of the unstable size and shape of breast.
- Feed the baby using alternative breasts. Don’t feed the baby using only one breast as it will lead to heaviness of breast on the unfed side.
- Extract the breast milk using a breast pump if the baby doesn’t drink milk for any health reason or otherwise.
- Chew raw or dry roasted fennel seeds two or three times a day. It prevents and reduces the pain during periods as well as PMS.
- Eat a low fat diet.
- Avoid drinking coffee and soft drinks.
- Avoid processed foods and high salted foods during periods.
- Eat light foods during menstruation to avoid getting bloated.
- Drink a lot of fresh fruit juices and tender coconut water.
- If possible, try to get rest if you suffer from breast pain during menstruation.
Tips to deal with breast pain during menstruation?
One last word, breast pain is not a sign of breast cancer. Even if you have painful lumps or cysts, it need not be cancer. Most of the cancerous lumps are painless. However, don’t take any chances and put your health to risk. When you find something abnormal, don’t hesitate to consult a professional. Your health is more important than anything else! Remain alert and get rid of breast pain with simple remedies but when essential don’t hesitate to go to a doctor!