What Causes Breast Pain?
Breast pain is also known as mastalgia. It is common for all women. Mastalgia can occur due to various reasons or at different stages of a woman’s life.
With close to 70% of women reporting about breast pain, only 15% of those require treatment. Pain when experiencing mastalgia varies with an individual as it can occur on one breast or both. At times, you can experience pain in the underarm.
Some of the symptoms can be sharp burning, tightening of breast tissue or tenderness. Pregnancy, menstruation, menopause, and lactation have an effect on what sort of breast pain you will experience.
There are two types of breast pain
Cyclical breast pain happens when you have your menstrual cycle, but it’s unknown what the exact causes are.
Hormonal changes make the breasts sensitive and result in pain. The breasts will feel heavy, tender, you feel tightness, or you have a sharp or stabbing pain.
Non-cyclic breast pain that which does not occur due to your menstrual cycle. The pain comes and goes, and women can be affected before and after menopause.
An example is like women that have large breasts as they might experience pain that is related to the size of their breasts.
Causes of Breast Pain
Medication – infertility treatments, oral birth control pills and some hormonal medications can cause breast pain. Progesterone and estrogen hormone therapies used after menopause result in breast pain as a side effect.
Extra-mammary pain or chest wall pain is that which occurs outside the breast. The pain feels like it originates from the breast, but it is from somewhere else.
They are likely to feel pain in the shoulder, back, and neck. Other non-cyclic breast pains can be as a result of some benign (not related to cancer) breast conditions, or when you injure your breast or side effects from drugs. Some antidepressants and herbal remedies like ginseng can cause breast pain.
Mastalgia occurs when you are under anxiety and stress. Non-cyclic pain can be in one or both breasts and at times the whole breast or on a specific area.
A burning, feeling of tightness or stabbing pain are what you might experience. This type of pain settles by itself in approximately half of the women.
Imbalance in the fatty acids found in cells. This might affect breast tissue sensitivity to circulating hormones.
Mastitis which is experienced by lactating mothers. It is a painful infection that affects the breast. One can detect mastitis when you experience fever, tiredness, and the breast is warm, red, swollen and painful to touch and aches.
Breast cysts that can be experienced by women who develop milk gland or duct. The cysts are filled with fluid and can be soft or firm and might be painful or not. During your menstrual cycle, they enlarge, and once you reach menopause, they go away.
What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a condition that can bring pain in different parts of the body, and such pains can get worse during a physical activity.
When fibromyalgia affects the breast, pains can be felt in some other adjoining areas such as arms, chest, and tender points.
Fibromyalgia is characterized by soreness and burning sensations in and around the breast.
Unfortunately, breast pains, triggered by Fibromyalgia can affect women of all age groups, however, the condition is not a life-threatening disorder even though it I accompanied by widespread pains.
Tender points, disturbances to sleep, and a feeling associated with persistent flu are just a few of the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Causes of Breast Fibromyalgia
Dull ache, tightness, heaviness, and burning sensations that may result in breast tenderness, and sharp sensations in the tissues, are the commonest symptoms of breast Fibromyalgia.
Sometimes, the condition may be tied to the menstrual cycle and may disappear once the cycle has ended.
Tenderness and discomfort in the breast can spread to the underarm area and there seem to be several misconceptions about this condition; for instance, many women may think breast Fibromyalgia is a symptom of breast cancer, but this is not the case.
Similarly, the development of cyclical pains in the breast does not increase one’s risks of developing breast cancer.
In most instances, Fibromyalgia will mostly affect the outer regions and upper areas of the two breasts, and this pain can quickly spread to the arms.
In some cases, the condition may start within the first 3 days of menstrual cycle, but the condition quickly improves toward the end of the menstrual cycle.
For some women, Fibromyalgia pains begin some days before the commencement of the menstrual cycle.
Older women passing through menopause may experience FM pains, but not as much as women under the peri-menopausal (those in the menopausal age groups), and pre-menopausal women.
According to statistics, more than 45% of women within the menstruating ages suffer from breast pains caused by Fibromyalgia, at one time or the other.
Most of the symptoms of the condition normally disappear gradually towards the end of menstrual cycles. Fibromyalgia is more prominent in women between the ages 30 and 50.
Symptoms of breast Fibromyalgia
Aside from the dull and sometimes sharp pains sensations, Fibromyalgia may be accompanied by skin rashes. Breast pains caused by Fibromyalgia can be cyclical or non-cyclical in nature.
Non-cyclical Fibromyalgia can be more dangerous than the cyclical. Other symptoms of breast Fibromyalgia are;
- The affected breast may suddenly become tender.
- The pain will appear cyclical, just the way the menstrual cycle is.
- Most patients often describe Fibromyalgia as a heavy and dull ache, while others describe it as heavy and sore. Some women also describe it as stabbing, sharp and burning.
- The breast may swell up, but the swelling may dissipate after a short while.
- The breast can become lumpy but does not generate a single hard lump.
- Both breasts may become affected, especially in the upper and outer regions.
- The pain suddenly and slowly spread to the under-region of the arm.
- The pain may suddenly become intense, shortly before the commencement of the menstrual cycle, especially between 1-2 weeks before menstruation.
- Non-cyclical Fibromyalgia normally affects one breast and not the two, and it normally appears within a quadrant of the affected breast, though it may spread toward or across the chest.
- Non-cyclical symptoms of Fibromyalgia are common among the post-menopausal age groups.
- The pain does not appear and disappear within the menstrual cycles, however, it can be sporadic or continuous in nature.
- Non-cyclical Fibromyalgia may be triggered by an existing infection, especially “Mastitis” disease in lactating mothers. This condition may be accompanied by fever, alongside breast warmness and redness. Inflammation occurring between the meeting point of the rib and cartilage may also trigger Fibromyalgia, with a sharp and burning sensation recorded.
When must you consider seeing a doctor?
Though most Fibromyalgia conditions that trigger breast pain will go on their own, it is important to seek a medical help at some points.
For instance, when one or both of your breasts have changed in size or shape, or when there is a discharge from the nipple.
You can also consider seeing a doctor if there is a rash around one or both nipples, when there is a dimpling development around the breast, when there is a lump or swelling under your armpit, or when you feel a certain change in the appearance of your nipple.
You should also consider seeing a doctor if you suddenly notice a region with thickened tissue around your breast.
What Doctor to See for Breast Pain?
Having a doctor to see when you have breast issues is one of the most critical decisions that you have to make. For your primary physician, who is mainly your OB/GYN, will be the one to direct you to other specialists.
The specialists include medical oncologists, radiation oncologists. Plastic surgeons and surgeons. The OB/GYN is the best person who can direct you to one of these specialists.
How to Relieve Breast Pain?
It all depends on what causes the pain. If treatment is the last resort, your doctor will likely recommend the following.
To eliminate what is the aggravating cause. It might be as simple as adjusting what you wear such as wearing a bra with more support.
If taking birth control pills, go on a pill-free week or try switching up the birth control. This might help alleviate breast pain. Only do this after you consult your doctor.
When on menopausal hormone therapy, think on reducing your dosage or stop having the treatment.
Taking prescription medicine such as Danazol, which is the only FDA approved medication to take when dealing with breast pain. It does have some side effects like weight gain and, therefore, one should use them in moderation.
Another medication that can women take is Tamoxifen. It is a prescription medication for treating and preventing breast cancer. It also has some side effects. Ask your doctor which one to choose before purchasing one by yourself.
according to Medical News Today, At home, you can also do a couple of things to relieve mastalgia.
Note when you have breast pain. This way you’ll determine whether it is a cyclic or non-cyclic pain.
Wearing the right fitted bra during the day, the right sports bra when working out and at times, wear a bra when sleeping for extra comfort.
When the pain is there, you can apply a cold or hot compress to your breast.
Taking vitamins such as Vitamin B6, Vitamin BI, and Vitamin E.
Increasing your intake of dietary fruits, grains, and vegetables.
Try Yoga or Pilates to help deal with stress, tension, and anxiety.
Reduce your sodium and caffeine intake. You can do away with coffee, chocolate, soft drinks, and tea.
Taking OTC medications like ibuprofen, or aspirin.
Having Primrose oil supplements as they help to alter the fatty acids balance in your cells, and it then reduces mastalgia.
Conditions that may increase your risks of Fibromyalgia
Certain conditions may worsen or predispose a woman to Fibromyalgia. For instance, the consumption of caffeine, in excessive amounts, can trigger the condition.
In diagnosing Fibromyalgia, the doctor may ask the patient how frequently she consumes caffeine, and where within the breast or breasts the pain is located.
Smoking can also increase the risks of developing Fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is also common among women who smoke heavily and most especially among women within the age bracket 30 and 50.
The use of certain medications, including contraceptive pills may also increase the chances of contracting Fibromyalgia- this is quite common among women within the age group 20 and 35.
In some cases, pregnancy may aggravate or induce the development of Fibromyalgia. The doctor may also examine the patient for nipple discharge, which may sometimes before the development of Fibromyalgia.
Mammogram, Ultrasound scan, and Breast Biopsy are normally performed to confirm that the condition is Fibromyalgia, however, none of these may be performed until after physical examination of the situation has been thoroughly performed.
There are quite a number of conditions that may show symptoms similar to Fibromyalgia, these include; Breast cysts, acid reflux, cervical related disorders, breast trauma, coronary artery diseases, Rib fracture, shingles, pregnancy, sickle cell anemia, alcoholism, psychological disorders, and Benign breast tumors.
There are quite a number of prescription medications that are prescribed to ease off Fibromyalgia symptoms.