What Causes Breast Pain And Tenderness?

August 13, 2021

Are you experiencing breast pain or tenderness?  There are many causes of breast pain – most of which can be treated fairly simply.  We will cover some of the top causes here and share some solutions with you.

Could it be that your hormones are making your breast sore?

Fluctuations in hormones are one main reason women have breast pain.  The breast can become sore anywhere from three to five days before the beginning of your menstrual period and stops hurting after your period starts.  The rise in estrogen and progesterone before your period is what is causing your pain.  These hormones generally cause your breasts to swell and can lead to tenderness or pain. 

During pregnancy, your breasts may remain sore during the first trimester as hormone production increases.  Breast tenderness is often the earliest sign of pregnancy for most women.

What can you do to minimize breast pain and tenderness?

  • Eliminate caffeine
  • Follow a low-fat diet
  • Reduce your salt intake
  • Avoid smoking
  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever
  • Ask your doctor if switching birth control pills or if hormone replacement therapy medications would help

Have you recently experienced an injury?

We can injure any part of our bodies, breasts are not excluded.  Have you experienced an accident or hurt yourself playing a sport?  Have you recently had breast surgery?  If you feel a sharp, shooting pain at the time of injury.  Tenderness or pain may linger for a few days up to several weeks after trauma was presented.  See your doctor if the pain persists or if you have any of the following:

  • Severe swelling
  • Found a lump in the breast
  • Redness and warmth, which could indicate an infection
  • A bruise on your breast that doesn’t seem to go away

Is your bra causing the issue?

If you do not have the proper support, the ligaments that connect breasts to the chest wall can become overstretched and painful.  This results in achy, sore breasts. This may be especially noticeable during exercise. Make sure your bra is the correct size and provides you with good support.

The pain may be coming from your chest wall.

It may feel like breast pain but it could be coming from your chest wall. This is the muscle, tissue, and bone area that surrounds and protects your heart and lungs. Top causes of chest wall pain include:

  • A pulled muscle
  • Inflammation around the ribs
  • Trauma to the chest wall (impact to the chest)
  • Bone fracture

Breastfeeding is causing breast tenderness or pain.

Sometimes breastfeeding can be the source of breast pain.  Some of the things you can experience while nursing include:

  • Painful nipples from an improper latch
  • A tingling sensation during letdown
  • Nipple soreness due to being bitten or having dry, cracked skin or an infection

If you have pain during breastfeeding it is important to discuss this with your doctor or a lactation consultant.  They may be able to help you troubleshoot the problem while maintaining your milk supply.

You could have a breast infection.

Women who breastfeed are more likely to get a breast infection but it can also occur in other women as well.  If you have a breast infection you may experience fever and symptoms only in one breast that include: 

  • Pain
  • Redness
  • Swelling

If you think you may have a breast infection, it’s important to see a doctor. Treatment typically includes antibiotics and pain relievers.

Breast pain could be a side effect of a medication you have been taking.

The medication you are taking could be the source of your pain.  Some medications may cause breast pain as a side effect. Talk to your doctor about the medications you are currently on.  Some of the drugs with breast pain as a side effect include:

  • Oxymetholone is used to treat some forms of anemia
  • Chlorpromazine is used to treat various mental health conditions
  • Water pills (diuretics), drugs that increase urination and are used to treat kidney and heart disease and high blood pressure
  • Hormone therapies (birth control pills, hormone replacement, or infertility treatments)
  • Digitalis, prescribed for heart failure
  • Methyldopa is used to treat high blood pressure

You may have a painful cyst in your breast.

Did you recently find a lump that is tender to the touch?  Then you may have a cyst.  Generally, fluid-filled lumps are not dangerous and often don’t need to be treated as they may resolve on their own.  It is important to get it assessed by your physician.  To properly diagnose the cyst, your doctor may recommend a mammogram, ultrasound, or aspiration biopsy.  Draining the fluid from the cyst is also a form of treatment.  

Could it be complications from breast implants?  

Sometimes there can be complications from having breast implants whether made of silicone or saline.  One of the most common causes of pain after any breast augmentation surgery is capsular contracture when scar tissue forms tightly around the implants.  If an implant has ruptured, that may also be the cause of your pain.  Be sure to bring up your concerns with your doctor.

Breast pain can also be a sign of breast cancer.

Breast pain is usually present to some degree with Inflammatory Breast Cancer which has other distinct symptoms as well. Rarely, does a breast tumor cause pain, but generally, cancerous tumors are not reported as painful.

 Inflammatory breast cancer may cause the breast to become:

  • Red or discolored
  • Swollen or heavy
  • Painful

The skin on the breast may also thicken or dimple. If you’re concerned about inflammatory breast cancer, see your doctor immediately. 

Contact your doctor if you experience pain along with any of the below symptoms.

  • Bloody or clear discharge from your nipple
  • A new lump with the onset of the pain; lump does not go away after your menstrual period
  • Persistent, unexplained breast pain
  • Signs of a breast infection, including local redness, pus, or fever
  • Redness of the skin of the breast that may appear as a rash, with dilated pores, and possibly skin thickening. (These are signs of inflammatory breast cancer and it commonly does cause pain)

If you have concerns in regards to breast pain and tenderness, it is always best to consult with your healthcare provider.  At OB-GYN Women’s Centre of Lakewood Ranch, we are a team of passionate healthcare professionals. We are here to help you at any stage of your life.