Many women experience tender and sore breasts at some point of time in their lives. Sore breasts may be caused due to various reasons – some not so serious in nature and some of which may require medical intervention.
Sore breasts are common occurrence and can be often overlooked thinking that it will go away after a certain period. But what many don’t know is that sore breasts or even breast pain can be an indication of some underlying, serious health disorder.
Breasts are very sensitive to female hormones and any fluctuations. Starting from puberty till menopause and sometimes even after menopause women could experience a feeling of soreness in the breasts and around the nipples. The feeling may vary from individual to individual and can be noticed in either or both the breasts.
Sore Breasts Causes
There can be several reasons why most women experience sore breasts. Some sore breasts causes could be temporary but some could be pretty serious. Some sore breasts reasons could be chronic while others are red flags for problems.
Puberty breast development
Girls and teen women often experience sore breasts and breast tenderness during mammary development. During puberty development hormone levels are jumping all over the charts, and this can lead to seemingly abnormal pain or soreness in breasts. Estrogen and progesterone are the blame factors behind sore breasts. Young girls will especially feel sore breasts and tenderness once they begin their periods. Even if their breasts are not fully developed, menstruation can still create soreness.
Ovulation is another reason for sore breasts. Right around your fertile time of month, your hormones are again to blame for breast soreness.
Pick of estrogens (just before ovulation) could be a reason for sore breasts. Other indicators may signal that ovulation is the reason your breasts are sore. Some women get cramping in their lower abdominal region during this time. However, unlike menstrual cramping, these pains tend to be sharper, and they shouldn’t last as long as PMS or period cramps.
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
Your breasts are one of the best indicators of when your body ushers in your period. Swelling, bloating and water retention during premenstrual period are just a few of the reasons for sore breasts right before menstruation.
Experiencing sore breasts before period is a sign of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), which occurs due to the fluctuation of the female hormones (estrogen dominance, estrogen and progesterone interaction). Estrogen dominance is a situation in which the levels of estrogen and progesterone are out of balance – the progesterone in your body is not enough to balance the levels of estrogen. There is also excessive retention of water in the breast tissues due to which the skin becomes taut. This is why women experience PMS breast tenderness and sore breasts.
Sign of Pregnancy
During pregnancy women body usually undergoes huge hormonal changes (increased levels of estrogen and progesterone). Estrogen increases the amount of breast tissue while progesterone helps to make the glands in the breast mature with some accumulation of water. During early pregnancy body prepares itself for breast-feeding after childbirth. The levels of hormones in the body increase, which result in tender and sore breasts. The breasts, particularly the nipples, become more sensitive to touch and even fabric. In general sore breasts and breast tenderness in early pregnancy are quite common symptoms and are considered as early pregnancy indicators. There is nothing to be worried about.
If your breasts continue to be sore long after your ovulation date, you might be pregnant. If you are pregnant, expect breast soreness intermittently during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Breasts are often sore from producing and holding milk.
In general during pre-menopause and menopause about 15-20% cycles could be anovulatory (without ovulation). As you get older, production of estrogen and progesterone in your body gradually begin to wind down and you will tend to have even more anovulatory cycles until you get to menopause. Most of the progesterone in your body is produced in the ovaries after ovulation. No ovulation means almost absence of progesterone. Even though you’re producing less estrogen as you go through menopause, these levels are still out of balance with the very low levels of progesterone. So you can still have estrogen dominance even if you have low estrogen levels. This leads to sore breasts and tender breasts.
Menopausal women tend to get breast soreness along with hot flashes, insomnia, weight change and headaches. This is again due to extreme hormone changes. Even during hormone replacement therapy the sore breasts could be a problem.
Very large breasts could also cause sore breasts and breast pain because of their weight. You may also feel pain in the neck and shoulders as well.
Fibrocystic breasts are characterized by lumpiness and usually discomfort in one or both breasts. The condition is very common and benign, meaning that fibrocystic breasts are not malignant (cancerous). Sore breasts are very common symptom of fibrocystic breasts. However, breasts lumps should always throw up a red flag. If you feel lumps or see green or brown discharge with your sore breasts, you should see a doctor.
If you are on medications like birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy (HRT), then you could experience sore breasts as a side effect of these therapies – breast reaction to used hormones. Birth control pills are responsible for change of normal biological hormonal rhythm on women body; birth control pills are also responsible for increased levels of prolactine which can develop sore breasts.
Some antidepressants (Prozac and Zoloft) could also have side effect – breast pain, especially around the areola may also be felt due to antidepressants.
During female infertility treatments very often several hormones are prescribed and they also could be responsible for sore breasts.
Breast cysts and/or breast tumors have few symptoms and one is sore breasts. The reason why there is a sore feeling in the breasts can be due to the presence of cysts or tumors – breast cysts and/or breast tumors are a mass of hardened tissue which may develop in the breast and can be felt as hard lumps surrounded with sore breast tissue. Breast cysts and/or tumors could be either benign or malignant – better check in “Breast Diseases”.
In general sore breasts and/or breast tenderness could be a sign of an underlying disease. The first sign of breast cancer, especially in case of inflammatory breast cancer, is severe breast pain and a sore sensation. Sore nipples on the breast, when accompanied with itching and redness, can also be a sign of breast cancer. If you have these symptoms – better visit your doctor immediately for the staging of this life threatening disease and also to rule out any complications. It is necessary to recognize the signs of breast cancer to prevent it from metastasizing to other parts of the body, which may prove fatal.
Sore breasts could be a result of imbalance in fat levels – an imbalance in the fats in your cells may make your breast tissue more sensitive to circulating hormones in the body causing breast pain and sore breasts.
Wrong Bra Size
Many women wear the wrong bra size without giving it a second thought – 80% of women today wear bras that are the wrong size for them. A common reason may be an ill fitting bra, which may cause tension in the breast muscles and sore breasts. Wearing a supportive and comfortable bra is the answer to solve this annoying condition.
Excess intake of caffeine in the form of coffee, beverages, energy drinks tea etc. are also some culprits that cause sore breasts. Reduced and controlled intake of caffeine beverages can prevent sore breasts. Instead drink plenty of water, fluids or fresh fruit juices.
Drinking more than three cups of coffee a day can apparently reduce the size of women’s breasts. But it also reduces the risk of cancer, researchers say. Swedish oncologist Dr Helena Jernstroem said a gene –
which half of women have – could react and cause them to a drop a bra size. But she added: “Coffee-drinking women do not have to worry their breasts will shrink to nothing overnight. They will get smaller but the breasts aren’t just going to disappear”.
How avoid Sore Breasts
- Avoid caffeine – whether in coffee or other food and drinks;
- Avoid using estrogen without balancing with progesterone;
- Avoid dairy products as much as possible;
- Avoid fatty foods;
- Avoid meat and poultry that has been exposed to drugs and hormones;
- Practice some relaxation techniques – stress and anxiety could worsen sore breasts;
- Check your bra size and choose most comfortable supporting bra style.