16 Causes of Breast Pain Every Woman Should Know

The various causes of breast pain, also known as mastalgia are explained below. Stay tuned to the article to know more about breast pain.

Causes of Breast Pain-

1. Breast Cysts

2. Breast surgery

Undergoing breast surgery and the formation of some scar tissue on your breast can lead to mild or severe breast pain. The severity and type of pain tend to vary between individuals and might range from no pain to severe pain. It could result from some kind of nerve damage or even inflammation. Pain might affect the surface of your breast, or it might even be deep. Well, the amount and type of pain might change over time. Soon after the surgery, pain might be severe.

Long-term effects might include:

  • Increased sensitivity
  • Reduced sensitivity and some amount of possible numbness
  • Inability to raise the arm over your head
  • Pain on touching the particular area
  • Difficulty in driving, doing handicrafts, and even other regular activities

Some of these might last 6 months or longer.

One research study that followed up the women who had undergone breast surgery over 6 months found that overall the mild pain tends to persist over time, moderate pain might increase, and severe pain would likely decrease.

3. Medications

Certain medications could contribute to the development of your breast pain.

Medications that are linked to an increase in breast pain happen to include:

  • Drugs that affect your reproductive hormones
  • Some treatments for your mental health conditions
  • Some of the cardiovascular treatments

Some examples of these particular types of drugs are:

  • Oral hormonal contraceptives
  • Antipsychotic, such as Haloperidol
  • Antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI)
  • Postmenopausal estrogen and progesterone preparations
  • Digitalis preparations, for example, digoxin
  • Spironolactone (Aldactone)
  • Methyldopa (Aldomet)

Others that can have this effect include:

  • Some diuretics
  • Infertility treatments
  • Anadrol, a well-known steroid

People with breast pain must speak to their healthcare provider to check if any of their medications are having an effect.

4. Costochondritis

Costochondritis, also known as  Costosternal syndrome, is basically the inflammation of your cartilage that connects the ribs and your breastbone. It could even occur with arthritis. Arthritis in the neck or even your upper back could also lead to pain or numbness in your chest. It could also occur with an injury or even physical strain. Sometimes, there might be swelling. Though it is not related to the breast, it tends to cause a burning pain that could be confused with breast pain. This condition most often affects several women and even people over 40 years of age.

5. Mastitis

Mastitis is basically a painful infection of the breast. It is most prevalent during breastfeeding, due to some clogged milk duct. However, it tends to happen at other times too.

Symptoms it may include:

  • Aches
  • Fever
  • Breast changes, such as redness, warmth, swelling, and pain
  • Tiredness

Treatment options actually include various antibiotics.

6. Fibrocystic breast changes

Fibrocystic breast changes tend to cause one or both breasts to become tender, lumpy and swollen. This is due to an eventual buildup of fluid-filled cysts and fibrous tissue. There might also be nipple discharge. Well, this harmless condition is quite common in women aged between their 20s and 50s, though it isn’t linked to a higher risk of breast cancer.

Some changes that might help reduce your discomfort include:

  • Following a low-salt diet
  • And using mild pain-relief medication

At least one study has suggested that vitamin E and B6 supplements might help with cyclic mastalgia and especially major and minor fibrocystic changes. However, a systematic review of the condition concluded that vitamins usually make no difference.  Caffeine reduction and consumption of evening primrose oil are often recommended, but one systematic review has categorically concluded that these are not effective in treating breast pain.

7. Breast cancer

Most breast cancers don’t actually cause pain. However, inflammatory breast cancer and even some tumours could lead to breast discomfort. People should definitely contact their doctor if they experience:

  • A lump or other area of concern in their breast
  • Any nipple discharge, clear, bloody or even otherwise
  • Pain or a lump that just does not go away after menstruation
  • Symptoms consistent with a certain breast infection such as redness, pus, or fever
  • Breast pain with an unknown cause or that just does not go away

Breast pain is generally not linked to cancer.

8. Chest wall pain

A range of conditions could cause pain in the wall of your chest. This could sometimes feel as if it is coming from your breast, even though it might not.

Common causes of chest wall pain include:

  • A pulled muscle in the chest
  • Angina
  • Inflammation of the tissue that surrounds the ribs due to costochondritis or Tietze’s syndrome
  • Gallstones

This type of pain may seem to spread down the arm on moving and intensify under pressure.

9. A poorly fitted bra

Breast pain could result from an improperly fitted bra. A bra that happens to be too tight or too loose could compress the breasts or even leave them improperly supported, resulting in mild or severe discomfort.

To check if a bra properly fits you, ask yourself:

  • Is the bra riding up at your back?
  • Are the straps or even the underwire digging in or are the breasts bulging out?
  • Does the centre fit close to your breastbone and can you pass a finger easily under the band below the cups of your bra?

well, wearing a sports bra during exercising could also be beneficial.

10. Shoulder, neck, or back sprains

Sprains in these parts of your body might end up causing painful sensations in your breasts. This can occur due to the distribution of various nerves in the upper torso.

11. Hormone fluctuations

A woman’s menstrual cycle, honestly, causes hormone fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone. These two hormones could cause a woman’s breasts to feel swollen, lumpy, and sometimes even painful.

Women, over the years, have reported that this pain happened to grow worse as they got older due to increased sensitivity to hormones as some woman ages. Sometimes, women who experience the menstrual-related pain would not have the pain after menopause.

If breast pain happens due to hormone fluctuations, you would usually notice the pain getting worse two to three days before your menstrual cycle starts. Sometimes the pain would continue throughout your menstrual cycle.

To determine whether your breast pain is linked to your menstrual cycle or not, keep a log of your periods and then note when you experience pain throughout the month. After a cycle or two, the pattern might become clear. Developmental periods that would affect a woman’s menstrual cycle and potentially could cause breast pain include:

12. Engorgement

Engorgement occurs when your breasts generally become overfull. Your breasts would appear enlarged and your skin would feel tight and painful. If you cannot feed your baby soon, you could try pumping or manually expressing your milk.

You can do this by placing your thumb on top of your breast and your remaining fingers underneath your breast. Slowly just roll your fingers back against your chest wall and then forward toward your nipples to empty your breast.

13. Improper latch

If your baby isn’t latching on appropriately to your nipple, you would likely experience some amount of breast pain. Signs that imply that your baby might not be latching properly include cracking nipples and nipple soreness. A lactation consultant at the hospital where you have given birth can typically help you establish a healthier latch.

Remember: Breastfeeding doesn’t necessarily have to hurt. See your doctor or you can even call a lactation specialist if you are having some difficulty breastfeeding.

14. Smoking

Smoking is known to increase epinephrine levels in the breast tissue of a woman. Thus making a woman’s breasts prone to pain.

15. Diet

The foods a woman eats might contribute to breast pain. Women who eat unhealthy diets, such as those high in fat and even refined carbs, might also be at greater risk for breast pain.

16. Extramammary concerns

Sometimes breast pain isn’t because of your breasts, but actually because of the irritation in your chest, arms, or even back muscles. This is common if you have engaged in activities such as mowing, raking, shovelling, and waterskiing.


Is breast pain linked to breast cancer?

Well, factually, Breast pain is not usually linked to breast cancer. Having breast pain or even fibrocystic breasts does not mean you are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer. However, lumpy tissue might make it harder to see tumours on a mammogram.

If you have any breast pain that is localized in only one area and that is consistent over the period of a month with no fluctuations in pain level, then call your doctor. Examples of diagnostic tests can include:

  • Mammogram- Doctors use this imaging test to identify various abnormalities in your breast tissue.
  • Ultrasound- An ultrasound is a scan that tends to penetrate the breast tissue. Doctors can use it to identify lumps in your breast tissue without exposing a woman to any kind of radiation.
  • MRI-  This is generally used to create detailed images of the breast tissue to identify potentially cancerous lesions.
  • Biopsy- A biopsy is the removal of breast tissue so that a doctor could examine the tissue under a microscope for the presence of cancerous cells.

Well, a doctor could use these tests to determine if your breast pain might be related to cancer.

What can help reduce breast pain?

Treatment would be varying depending on whether your breast pain is cyclical or maybe noncyclical. Before even treating you, your doctor would consider your age, medical history, and the severity of your pain.

Treatment for cyclical pain might include:

  • Wearing any supportive bra 24 hours a day when the pain is at its worst
  • Taking some estrogen blockers, such as tamoxifen
  • Taking some calcium supplements
  • Reducing your sodium intake
  • Taking medications to relieve pain, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen
  • Taking oral contraceptives, which might help to make your hormone levels more even

Treatment for noncyclical pain would depend on the cause of breast pain. Once the cause is identified, your doctor would prescribe specifically related treatments.

Always talk to your doctor before you start taking any supplements to ensure they won’t interfere with the medicines you’re taking or any conditions you might have.

When to see your doctor

If your breast pain is absolute sudden and accompanied by chest pain, tingling, and numbness in your extremities, then seek immediate medical attention. These symptoms would indicate a heart attack.

Make an appointment to see your doctor if your pain tends to:

  • Keep you from daily activities
  • Last longer than two weeks
  • Accompany a new lump that appears to be getting thicker
  • Be concentrated in any one specific area of your breast
  • Get worse with time


Kabbyashree Dasgupta

An untamed perfectionist of imperfection. Writing is not only my hobby but an inculcated passion, which transports me into a different world altogether. As a part-time freelancer, I love writing articles and imparting knowledge, on my journey of learning a little bit more, each day.

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