Breast Soreness Before a Period—Why Does It Happen?

Learn what causes breast pain before your period and how you can get some relief.

Dealing with cramps, acne, and bloating, among other side effects, is uncomfortable enough when you have your period. But changes during your menstrual cycle can also be as hard on your breasts. 

You're not alone if you've noticed that your breasts become sore, tender, or heavy right before your period. That cyclical breast soreness, also known as mastalgia, is a common premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptom. Per the National Library of Medicine, PMS is a group of symptoms that occur in the days leading up to your period.

Here's what you should know about breast soreness around the time of your period and what you can do about it.

Why Do Breasts Become Sore Before and During Your Period?

"The medical term for premenstrual breast swelling and tenderness is cyclical mastalgia," Kecia Gaither, MD, an OB-GYN, maternal-fetal medicine specialist, and the director of perinatal services at NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln, told Health

Like other period-related changes, your breast soreness results from regular hormonal changes.

"Toward the end of a menstrual cycle and during the period, the ratio of the two reproductive hormones—estrogen and progesterone—change," Prudence Hall, MD, founder and medical director of The Hall Center in Santa Monica, Calif., told Health. "That's when estrogen falls to its lowest levels in the menstrual cycle, while progesterone is still quite high, causing fluid shifts and tenderness in the breasts."

Dr. Gaither added that estrogen causes the breast ducts to enlarge. At the same time, progesterone swells the milk glands, resulting in lumpy, swollen, tender, or heavy breasts, per one study published in 2016 in Frontiers in Oncology

Those hormones also promote extra water retention in the breast and abdominal area, making your breasts feel bloated and uncomfortable in your bra.

How To Get Relief From Breast Soreness

Take the Right Vitamins and Minerals

According to the Office on Women's Health, some vitamins can help soothe PMS symptoms, including breast soreness. Potential options you could use for breast soreness include: 

  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin E
  • Magnesium

A study published in 2015 in the Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research explored the use of vitamins E and B6 for breast pain relief. After two months of supplementation, both vitamins helped reduce pain scores.

"Vitamin E has been implicated in reducing breast pain by effectively assisting in reducing inflammation," explained Dr. Gaither.

Magnesium helps to "maintain healthy hormone levels, which can decrease breast tenderness, and serotonin levels, which modulate our perception of pain," added Dr. Hall. 

It also helps maintain normal fluid balances, which eases breast tenderness as well, noted Dr. Hall.

Don't Skip Your Workouts

You may not feel like dragging yourself to the gym when your chest is hurting. But exercise helps with everything in the body, and breast pain is no exception. 

"It has to do with increasing healthy muscles and reducing fat cells, which produce inflammation," noted Dr. Hall, adding that inflammation is a primary cause of pain.

According to one study published in 2017 in Brain Plasticity, exercise boosts endorphins, chemicals that act as natural painkillers. Dr. Gaither explained that exercise also increases blood oxygenation and circulation to your tissues, which can feel invigorating. 

"Moderate aerobic exercises are helpful: Think swimming, jogging, or walking about 30 minutes a day," added Dr. Gaither.

Wear Your Sturdiest Sports Bras All Day

A supportive, non-underwire bra, like a sports bra, might be your best friend during your period. 

"Close-fitting sports bras are helpful in keeping the breasts close to the body, which keeps their movement at bay and thus decreases the pain associated with unrestricted movement," explained Dr. Gaither.

Even a soft non-underwire bra can help.

"If the breast ligaments are stretched due to increased breast size, a soft bra relieves that strain on the ligaments," added Dr. Hall.

Cut Out Salt

Snacks like potato chips are what you probably crave most during your period. But you might want to stay away from them.

A study published in 2017 in Agri found high salt consumption is linked to increased breast pain. Dr. Hall explained that salt increases fluid retention, leaving your breasts feeling heavy.

Instead, try to eat a diet with protein, fiber, and minerals to decrease symptoms, offered Dr. Gaither.

Try a Natural Remedy

Over-the-counter (OTC) nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen, can help reduce breast achiness. But if you don't like taking pills, there are other options.

"Dandelion root has also been noted to be a help with breast pain. It's a natural diuretic and contains potassium to assist in ridding extra bodily fluid," said Dr. Gaither.

Brew dried dandelion in tea, or take it as an herbal supplement. Don't rely too much on diuretics, though. According to one study published in 2019 in Nutrients, diuretics can lead to dehydration, which will cause more discomfort.

Another option is primrose oil, which "contains gamolenic acid, which has anti-inflammatory properties," according to Dr. Gaither. You can take an extract orally or rub it directly onto your breasts.

As with any supplement, check with your healthcare provider first to ensure it's safe.

When To Be Concerned

If your breasts are hurting beyond your period, there may be an underlying cause. According to the National Library of Medicine, breast soreness or tenderness can be due to the following:

  • Injuries
  • Certain medications, like birth control
  • Surgeries
  • Physical changes
  • Infections
  • Other breast-related issues, like cysts

It is also possible to experience extramammary mastalgia, pain from another body part. For example, some people may mistake gallbladder pain for breast pain.

If you're experiencing continuous breast pain, your healthcare provider may do an evaluation. An evaluation might include a breast ultrasound, biopsy, or mammogram to rule out any severe conditions.

A Quick Review

Breast soreness is one of the most common symptoms of PMS, so don't worry if you notice your breasts changing in the days leading up to your period. 

Try some at-home remedies to ease breast soreness—including working out, wearing a supportive bra, or cutting out salt from your diet, among other treatments. 

And if you're breast pain extends beyond your period, you may want to consult your healthcare provider to rule out any other underlying conditions. 

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