While breast pain is normally associated with pregnancy, it can occur for a variety of other reasons. In medical terminology, breast pain is referred to as mastalgia. Many women experience this symptom just prior to the onset of menstruation. Depending on the woman, it may feel like soreness, stabbing pain, heaviness or burning pain. Typically, women experience sore breasts in their upper breast area from their armpits across the chest.
The most common reason for breast pain is menstruation and changes in hormonal levels. If the pain is severe or chronic, it could be a sign of something worse. At the very least, chronic pain increases the chances that you will feel anxious, stressed or depressed. Since sore breasts can be a sign of breast cancer, it is worth it to go to a doctor and get professionally checked out to be on the safe side.
The Most Common Reasons for Sore Breasts (Not Pregnant)
When Soreness Occurs in a Cycle
While medical professionals are not sure why breast pain occurs in cycles, they believe that it is most likely connected to hormonal changes in the body. If you have cyclical breast pain, you will normally experience the pain at the same time every month—the most common time being one to three days before your period begins. Once your period ends, you will probably not experience the pain anymore.
Cyclical breast pain often has varying intensities, so a high pain month could be immediately followed by a lower pain month. Even women who have undergone menopause may still experience cyclical pain because the body still has hormonal changes throughout the month.
Period-Related Breast Pain
Menstruation remains the most common reason for breast pain if your are not pregnant. The pain will stop between periods, but a poor diet can worsen it. Caffeine and methylxanthine derivatives are common food ingredients that cause the dilation of your blood vessels. When the blood vessels dilate, it can cause pain and distention in your breasts. Likewise, fatty foods can increase soreness in the breasts.
If you eat a lot of salt, you may experience breast pain. The salt causes water retention that can cause your bodily tissues to strain as they encompass the added weight. This strain can be especially painful for the breasts. In addition to salt, there is a link to dairy products and breast pain. While researchers are not sure why this connection exists, they do know that women who eat a lot of dairy right after their period are more likely to complain of breast soreness. As long as your breasts do not have palpable bumps, redness, abnormal nipple discharges or warm sensations to the touch, it is probably not a sign of anything that you should worry about.
Non-Cyclical Breast Soreness
It is not always possible to figure out why your breasts are sore for reasons other than pregnancy. Some of the possible medical conditions at fault could be:
Breast Abscess: Pus collects within a spot in the breast, and this causes severe pain.
Mastitis: Mastitis is caused by breastfeeding and requires medical treatment. If you have mastitis, you will experience swollen, sore breasts.
Breast Lumps: Even if cancer is not the cause, benign lumps can cause a significant amount of pain. Since limps could be a sign of breast cancer, you should make sure to schedule a breast exam right away.
Injuries: If you recently took up a new work out or gardening, you may have pulled a muscle in the chest that is causing pain.
Medication: Some medications like anti-fungal, anti-psychotic and anti-depressant medications are known to have breast pain as a side effect. While this side effect is rare, it can and does happen.
When Should You See a Doctor About Sore Breasts?
Whenever you experience changes in your breasts, you should see a doctor immediately. If there are signs of an infection like swelling, inflammation, a heightened temperature or warmth, you should go to your doctor. A rash on or around your nipples, shape changes and size change necessitate immediate medical attention. Nipple discharge that is abnormal or bloody is a sign that you should visit a doctor. If the pain in your breasts or armpits is not connected to menstruation, you should talk to your doctor about it. You will also want to go to a doctor if you experience lumps anywhere on the chest, dimpling on your breasts or a sudden change in the appearance of your nipples.
Home Remedies for Treating Sore Breasts
If you are not pregnant and your menstrual cycle is the reason for sore breasts, you can probably treat your breast pain at home. Some of the home treatment options include:
- Castor Oil: A castor oil pack can be made by soaking a cloth or towel in castor oil. Afterward, lie down and apply the towel to your skin for 20 minutes.
- Bra Fitting: While it may be uncomfortable at times, you need to always wear a sports bra while exercising. Focus on wearing a well-fitted bra during the day. At nighttime, you can use a softer and less supportive bra.
- Evening Primrose Oil: While medical research does not back up this treatment, there are many women who swear by evening primrose oil for sore breasts. This oil can be found at most drug stores and health food stores. Make sure to read the directions and contraindications before using it because evening primrose oil is not designed for pregnant, nurse or epileptic women. You should also follow the directions exactly to prevent an unintentional overdose.
- NSAIDs: A doctor can provide anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce the breast pain. Aspirin or ibuprofen are also NSAIDs, and they are available over the counter.
- Tylenol and Acetaminophen: Tylenol and acetaminophen can temporarily reduce the pain caused by sore breasts.