What Is Mastalgia?—Why Your Boobs Hurt and What to Do About It

breast-pain.jpg
Getty Images

Up to 70% of women have breast pain, called mastalgia, at some point in their lives, and there are many causes. Most breast pain is not due to an underlying disease or condition.

Types of Breast Pain

The most common cause of breast pain is normal hormonal changes before your period. If this were the root of your aches, though, they would most likely arrive only around your period. Breast tenderness is a common premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptom. Estrogen and progesterone fluctuate, and before your period starts, fluids in your body shift as your breast ducts and milk glands enlarge.

Consistent breast pain happens more often after age 30 and can feel like swelling or tenderness in both breasts or a sharp burning sensation in one spot. Relieving it sometimes takes trial and error. Rarely is pain a sign of breast cancer.

Stabbing pain suggests a cyst or fibroadenoma—a benign tumor—in the breast. Either one can feel like a lump, but it might be too deep to notice via touch. Though they're mostly harmless, fibroadenomas can raise breast cancer risk. After diagnosis via ultrasound or mammogram, cysts can be drained with a fine needle, while fibroadenomas may require surgery.

All-over pain could signify water retention, which can be diet-related.

Treatments

Some people with sore breasts find relief by taking vitamin B6 and vitamin E supplements with evening primrose oil—which is rich in a certain fat that seems to help. Others feel better when they limit their caffeine or salt intake. But diet changes don't always work on their own.

In that case, try over-the-counter pain relievers like aspirin, or talk to your doctor about topical pain medications like creams. The pain should go away within a few days.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles