Breast pain, also known as mastalgia, is a very common complaint among women, especially during the menstrual cycle. According to California Pacific Medical Center, breast pain affects 50 to 70 percent of women.
Some of the signs of mastalgia are stabbing pain, heaviness, soreness, tenderness and swelling in both breasts. The pain may be mild to severe and occur constantly or only occasionally. Breast pain can be classified into two main clinical patterns:
- Cyclical– the pain intensity changes during the menstrual cycle.
- Non-cyclical – the pain remains unchanged during the menstrual cycle. This type is less frequent.
Cyclical breast pain occurs due to hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle. On the other hand, non-cyclical breast pain is associated with issues that affect the structure of the breasts, such as cysts, trauma, prior surgery or other factors.
Other causes of breast pain are an imbalance of fatty acids within the cells of the breasts, use of certain medications, having large breasts, breastfeeding and wearing ill-fitted bras.
For breast pain that occurs before or during the menstrual cycle, some home remedies can help ease the pain and tenderness. For unexplained pain that persists for days and occurs in one specific area of your breast, seek proper medical advice.
Here are the top 10 ways to deal with breast pain.
1. Ice Pack
To get relief from breast pain, you can use an ice pack. The cold temperature will numb the tender area as well as reduce swelling and pain.
- Place a few ice cubes in a plastic bag, and wrap it with a washcloth.
- Apply this ice pack to each of your breasts for about 10 minutes.
- Repeat a few times a day until you feel better.
You can also use a warm compress, or alternating warm and cold compresses to reduce the swelling and tenderness.
Note: Do not apply ice directly on your breasts.
2. Self Massage
Self-massaging the breasts will help reduce inflammation as well as improve blood circulation. This will help maintain healthy breast tissues and more nutrients will reach the breasts to prevent pain and tenderness.
- When you are in the shower, soap your breasts and then gently massage them for a few minutes from the center of your chest out to your armpits. If breastfeeding, do not apply soap to the nipples.
- Alternatively, add a few drops of camphor oil to 2 tablespoons of warm olive oil and use it to massage the breasts 1 or 2 times a day.
- Another option is to mix together equal amounts of apricot oil and wheat germ oil and then use it as massage oil for your tender breasts.
Massage your breasts on a regular basis to keep them healthy and pain free.
3. Evening Primrose Oil
One of the best treatments for breast pain is evening primrose oil. This oil contains the active ingredient gamolenic acid (GLA), a kind of fatty acid that helps the body respond well to hormonal changes. This in turn eases breast tenderness and pain.
- Apply evening primrose oil externally on your breasts and massage gently for a few minutes.
- Another option is to take 240 to 500 mg of evening primrose oil standardized extract daily for about 3 months, but only after consulting your doctor.
Note: If you are trying to get pregnant or if you have epilepsy, do not use evening primrose oil remedies.
The herb chasteberry can also be used to treat cyclical mastalgia and other symptoms of PMS. This herb has a positive effect on the pituitary gland to suppress the release of prolactin, a hormone responsible for PMS symptoms, including tender and painful breasts.
- The typical dose of dry chasteberry extract is 20 mg, 1 to 3 times a day.
- You can also take chasteberry as a liquid extract. Add 40 drops to a glass of water and drink it once in the morning.
Follow either of these remedies for at least 3 months. As with all supplements, consult a doctor first.
5. Castor Oil
Castor oil contains ricinoleic acid, which has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties that greatly help relieve breast pain. It also increases circulation, so that nutrients reach the cells, and waste products and inflammatory factors are removed from the body.
- Mix 1 tablespoon of castor oil with 2 tablespoons of any lighter oil, such as olive oil.
- Use it to massage all over your breasts.
- Follow this remedy daily in the week prior to your period.
According to naturopathy, dandelion can help deal with tenderness and pain in breasts. It is a natural diuretic and contains lots of potassium that helps flush extra fluids out of the body and prevents water retention. This in turn reduces breast pain.
- Simmer 1 teaspoon of dried dandelion root in a cup of water for 15 minutes. Strain and add a little honey. Drink up to 3 cups of this herbal tea a day.
- You can also take this herb in supplement form, after consulting your doctor.
Follow either of these remedies a few days before your menstrual cycle to prevent breast pain.
Fennel is useful in relieving breast tenderness and pain associated with premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and menstruation. It helps rebalance female hormones and prevents water retention. It also prevents the buildup of toxins in the body.
- Add 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds to a cup of hot water, cover and steep for 10 minutes. Strain, and drink this tea a few times daily.
- You can also chew some roasted fennel seeds a few times daily to prevent PMS symptoms like breast pain.
8. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is helpful in dealing with breast pain. It can help remove toxins from the body, reduce water retention and regulate hormones. This in turn helps reduce breast pain and tenderness.
- Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar to a glass of warm water.
- Add a little honey and mix well.
- Drink this solution twice daily.
9. Vitamin E
Vitamin E is also helpful in treating breast pain. It helps regulate hormonal changes in the body, which in turn reduces breast pain and other premenstrual symptoms.
- A daily dose of 200 to 400 IUs of vitamin E can prevent breast pain and tenderness during menstruation. Consult your doctor for the correct dosage.
- Eat foods rich in vitamin E, such as sunflower seeds, almonds, olive oil, spinach, avocados, turnips, beet greens and mustard greens.
- You can also use vitamin E oil to massage your breasts gently a few times a day.
Magnesium is an important daily nutrient that can help alleviate breast issues like tenderness and pain during menstruation. Magnesium helps reduce fluid retention, which reduces pain and swelling in the breasts.
- Eat foods rich in magnesium like dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, soybeans, avocados, bananas and dark chocolate.
- You can also take magnesium supplements 2 weeks before your menstrual cycle to prevent breast pain as well as other premenstrual symptoms. For proper dosage, consult your doctor.
- Wear well-fitted bras for support. Avoid wearing underwire and push-up bras.
- Wear a sports bra when exercising, especially when your breasts may be more sensitive.
- Practice meditation and yoga to reduce and manage stress levels and, in turn, breast pain.
- Limit your intake of caffeine as it can cause soreness and tenderness in the breasts.
- Eat plenty of fiber to help your body flush out extra estrogen. You can get fiber from cabbage, broccoli, kale, sprouts, legumes and whole grains.
- Reduce your intake of hydrogenated oils, found in margarine, packaged baked goods and snack products.
- Reduce fat in your diet and eat more vegetables and fruits that are high in antioxidants to help the body fight off free radicals.
- Aim for at least 20 percent or less of your total calories from fats.
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day to get rid of toxins from the body.
- Make a habit of examining your breasts at least once every 2 to 3 months. If you notice any difference in the size or shape of your breasts, consult a doctor.