Most of the time, period breast pain coincides with the premenstrual period and is interpreted by many as a “signal” that precedes the onset of menstruation.
In these cases, the cyclical mastodynia (medical term used to indicate breast pain associated with the menstrual cycle ) becomes more pronounced as the start of the flow approaches, to progressively regress in the following days.
Period Breast Pain: What Is It?
Period breast pain (or cyclic mastodynia) is a physiological symptom that appears in the days preceding the onset of menstrual flow and affects both breasts .
However worrying and/or annoying, breast pain before menstruation is a benign symptom and does NOT depend on pathological causes.
What Are The Causes?
Period breast pain depends on the hormonal variation typical of the premenstrual period: the breast tissue is in fact extremely delicate and sensitive to the hormonal fluctuations that occur every month.
Breast Pain Before Menstruation
If breast pain appears in the days preceding the onset of menstrual flow and affects both breasts, the cause is due to the increase in estrogen levels in the blood . These female hormones control – together with progesterone – the menstrual cycle (monthly) and influence many functions. As a side effect they favor the temporary enlargement of the mammary gland which produces tension and can cause the appearance of a more or less accentuated discomfort.
Breast Pain During And After Menstruation
Sometimes, it is possible that the sensation of soreness in the breast typical of the premenstrual period lasts longer, assuming characteristics such as: painful twinges, tension, swelling and heaviness in one or both breasts. The most affected quadrants are the outer ones, especially the upper quadrant.
These disturbances can also extend to the armpits and arm and can be associated with irregularities in the rhythm of menstruation (early or late).
In these cases, the cause could depend on an alteration in the functionality of the ovaries and, in particular, when these organs secrete higher amounts of estrogen and/or less progesterone than normal. Generally, it is a temporary disorder, perhaps due to a particularly stressful period, but it can also be associated with certain pathological conditions.
How To Recognize It
Period Breast Pain: How It Manifests
Period breast pain can take on different connotations, i.e. it can vary from a sense of breast tenderness to a dull and continuous pain. Cyclic mastodynia can also present itself as a simple feeling of heaviness or it can manifest itself with stinging and stabbing pains, like stabbing. As a rule, cyclic mastalgia is bilateral, so the typical breast pain associated with the menstrual cycle usually affects both breasts.
Period breast pain can be made worse by certain movements: many women report an exacerbation of pain when jogging , during sexual activity, lifting bulky boxes or simply hugging another person.
Breast Pain: How Many Days Before Your Period?
Breast pain usually occurs 5-10 days before the start of the period.
When To Worry
Period Breast Pain: When To See A Doctor
Although breast pain from periods is almost always benign, you should see your doctor if :
- Period breast pain is particularly intense, so much so that it prevents you from carrying out normal daily activities;
- Breast pain gets worse over time and does not go away after the end of menstruation;
- Breast pain is localized in a precise point and is not relieved by common analgesics ;
- The breasts are lumpy and the abnormal, firm masses do not “melt” after the menstrual flow;
- Breast pain lasts more than 15 days over a month.
Period breast pain shouldn’t cause you to worry when:
- Regresses after menstruation;
- The shape of the breast is natural;
- The nipples are not retracted and do not secrete milky substances.
Self Examination: A Healthy Habit To Protect Breast Health
As doctors advise, breast self-monitoring should be a fixed appointment starting from the age of 20, to be repeated at least once a month, one week after the end of menstruation (i.e. when hormonal activity is “at rest” and the breasts are less swollen and sore). It only takes a few minutes to run it.
This simple self-assessment test allows to know the structure and the general appearance of the breast , therefore it allows the woman to catch early any unusual change with respect to the basic physiognomy of the same. If performed correctly and regularly, self-examination can limit the risk of diagnosing advanced stage cancer, therefore it represents a valid “prevention” tool.
If a lump is found during self-examination of the breast, there is no need to be alarmed, as it could be a harmless finding, but it is important to inform the doctor who can indicate the appropriate instrumental tests to ascertain the real state of health.
Breast Pain Before Menstruation: What To Do
With the onset of menstruation, therefore with the decrease in estrogen and the increase in progesterone, the situation returns to normal: the volume of the breasts is reduced, as well as the tension and swelling are reduced until they disappear. To alleviate the discomfort, it can be helpful to avoid wearing bras and clothing that are too tight during the premenstrual phase.
Medications For Period Breast Pain
Period breast pain tends to resolve spontaneously in a rather short time, without the need to resort to the use of drugs.
However, when the pain becomes difficult to bear, the most suitable medicines are the common analgesics ( ibuprofen , paracetamol , etc.) to be taken by mouth.
Some birth control pills may also help reduce period-related breast pain.
Some medications can make period breast pain worse. For example, some high blood pressure medications and certain antidepressants tend to make breast tenderness worse . Obviously, it is not recommended to interrupt or modulate the therapy without first consulting the doctor’s opinion.
In some cases, to appease particularly annoying breast pain from periods, women require more powerful drugs than common NSAIDs ; after having carried out all the possible analyzes of the case, the doctor can prescribe to the patient drugs capable of blocking the action of the hormones (responsible for breast pain) at the level of the membrane receptors . For this purpose, the recommended drugs are danazol * and bromocriptine **: however, these drugs often generate unpleasant side effects, sometimes much more disabling than period breast pain.
* Danazol : is a derivative of androgen hormones , capable of inhibiting ovulation by reducing the level of estrogen and progesterone in the blood. As a result, period breast pain tends not to come back.
** Bromocriptine : it is a drug widely used for the treatment of hyperprolactinaemia . Relieves period breast pain by reducing blood prolactin levels.
Attention! Perform monthly breast self-exams regularly and see your doctor immediately if you discover any changes in your breasts.
Remedies And Tips To Relieve It
How To Relieve Period Breast Pain
To get relief from period breast pain, you can opt for:
- Bras of the right size, which offer good support;
- Hot or cold packs and massages;
- Food supplements ;
- Changes in diet.
How To Choose The Bra
- To relieve menstrual pain in the breast, a bra that covers and supports the entire breast with wide straps and back support is recommended.
- A bra that is too tight or too loose can make symptoms worse. Therefore, care must be taken with the models and sizes chosen.
- Even the lack of support during exercise can cause period pain in the breasts: the ideal sports bra must guarantee good support.
Food Supplements For Period Pain In The Breast
Chasteberry helps relieve a variety of PMS symptoms , including breast swelling and pain from periods . Some people may benefit from taking evening primrose oil (or its active component gamma-linolenic acid ), vitamin E , or a combination thereof, but research has provided inconsistent results.
Powdered flaxseed can reduce the intensity and duration of cyclical breast pain . One study showed that Matricaria chamomilla ( chamomile ) may help reduce premenstrual breast pain, but more research is needed.
Diet Rich In Xanthines: What To Limit Or Avoid
In general, breast pain is often exacerbated by a diet rich in xanthines. According to some studies, reducing the intake of coffee, tea and chocolate can improve painful symptoms. Similarly, limiting the consumption of fatty foods and increasing the intake of Vitamin A can help .