IMPORTANT: Before you try out a treatment for painful breasts, visit your physician to rule out any serious problems.
Breast pain, or mastalgia, effects 85% of women at some stage during their lives. Mastalgia refers to any breast pain severe enough to interfere with the quality of a woman’s life, causing her to seek treatment. While very few complaints of breast pain are actually breast cancer, you should see your health provider to rule this out.
What Is Cyclic Mastalgia?
Approximately 8-10% of premenopausal women experience moderate to severe pre-menstrual breast pain every month. This condition is called cyclic mastalgia or cyclic mastitis and is often associated with premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
The hypersensitivity that you typically encounter during pregnancy or shortly before menstruation, is caused by natural cycles of the reproductive hormones estrogen and progesterone.
These hormones signal the cells of the mammary glands that they need to grow, while the tissue surrounding these glands expands with the blood and other juices with which the cells are fed. These fluid-filled tissues can stretch nerve fibers, making you feel pain.
You may also experience fibrocystic changes, which include nodules and cysts usually occur in non-active parts: the fat cells, fibrous tissues and other parts that have nothing to do with milk production or -transport.
Conventional treatment for monthly breast pains involves anti-inflammatory medications and, sometimes, hormonal treatments.
Natural Ways to Get Rid of the Pain Yourself
If you are suffering from cyclic mastalgia, you might prefer to use some natural home remedies first. We have listed them below.
Provide Adequate Vitamins
Make sure your diet is rich in vitamin C, calcium, magnesium and vitamin B. These vitamins regulate the production of prostaglandin E, which in turn has an inhibitory effect on prolactin, a hormone that activates the growth breast tissue.
For more than 35 years, clinicians have used vitamin E in the medical management of benign breast disease. When larger numbers of women were studied, vitamin E did not fare so well, showing no significant effects. However, two studies demonstrated that vitamin E is clinically useful in relieving pain and tenderness, whether cyclical or non-cyclical.
Vitamin E can be found in vegetable oils, nuts and green leafy vegetables. Other sources of vitamin E include nuts, barley, wheat germ etc. Here’s a list of the top vitamin E foods:
- Sunflower Seeds
- Butternut Squash
- Chili Powder
- Dried Apricots
- Cooked Spinach
- Mustard Greens
- Canola Oil
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Red Bell Peppers
- Pine Nuts
- Green Olives
(From: 25 Vitamin E Rich Foods)
Vitamin B6 can be obtained by taking avocados, spinach and lean meats. The top foods rich in B6 are:
- Sweet Potato
- Sunflower Seeds
(From: Vitamine B6: Pyridoxine)
Some studies have shown that vitamin A can reduce breast pain in women with moderate to severe symptoms. Herbs that are used in the form of dietary supplements are recommended by doctors for women who have breast pain. It is highly effective in relieving breast pain that is caused by PMS.
Sources of vitamin A are:
- Sweet Potato
- Turnip Greens
- Dandelion Greens
- Beet Greens
- Swiss Chard
- Pak Choi
Evening Primrose Oil
The application of evening primrose oil over the breast helps in reducing breast pain . Supplementation with evening primrose oil has also been found to be effective. Taking 3000 mg of evening primrose oil a day can help in treating mastalgia.
You can make a cold compress with the help of ice packs or frozen packets of fruits and vegetables wrapped in a towel. Keep it in place for a minute.
Some women find relief by dipping their hands in cold water and then holding their breasts.
Or a Hot Compress
Less shocking than ice packs, but equally soothing to swollen breasts, is a hot compress.
Other women find relief in using a heating pad or hot water bottle, a warm bath or shower. Still others are best served by an alternating application of heat and cold.
Change your Eating Habits
Switch to a low-fat and high in fiber (whole grains, vegetables, beans) diet. Research has shown that the estrogen metabolizes in a different way for women who maintain such a diet. More estrogen is excreted in the faeces, so there remains less circulating in the body. And this means less hormonal stimulation of the breasts.
This means that you should keep your weight within the limits for your height. Women with a lot of extra weight can often diminish the pain and lumps in their breasts considerably by losing weight.
After all, in women, fat acts as an additional gland which produces estrogen. If you have too much body fat, it may circulate more estrogen in your body than is good for you. And breast tissue is very responsive to the hormonal balance.
Adrenaline, a substance produced by the adrenal glands during stress, disrupts the conversion of gamma linoleic acid (GLA), which normally contributes to the production of prostaglandin E. Yoga, breathing exercises, meditation and simply “letting go” can help you calm down.
A lot of women experience a decline in breast pain intensity and occurrence after quitting caffeine. Complete abstinence means that you not only quit coffee, but also all soft drinks, chocolate, ice cream products, tea and all painkillers that contain caffeine.
Very salty foods make you retain fluids. It is especially important that you avoid sodium seven to ten days before menstruation.
Buy a Bra that Provides Good Support
A firm bra, for example a sports bra, can prevent all stretched nerve fibers from stretching out further. Some women benefit from wearing a special bra for sleep in bed.
Lymphatic Massage to Reduce Fluid Accumulation
Many women find relief by massaging themselves softly, causing additional moisture from the breasts to be moved into the lymphatic vessels. One particular technique is first soaping the breasts; Make small circular movements with your fingers, then move with your hands inwards and press up.
Here you can see a demonstration of self breast massage:
Lymphatic drainage massage is a great solution for many health problems you might have, as well as a full body detox that can aid in weight loss. If you like to know more, check out my article here. If you can find a therapist trained in lymphatic massage he or she can be very helpful in treating some types of breast pain. This video shows how the treatment would be:
Discover the Emotional Message behind Physical Symptoms
Some doctors have noticed that women who have breast pain complaints are often experiencing difficulties with loved ones in their life. Breasts of women are closely associated with feelings of affection and security. The realization that the breast pain is connected to some strong emotion, can help in accepting the pain and from there dealing with the underlying cause.
Ninja tip: Feeling better around your period…
As cyclic mastalgia has to do with your hormone levels, you might also be benefited by using special supplements for any symptoms you have around and during your period. These herbal pills can improve your hormonal balance, and can also help with sensitive and painful breasts.
The ones I use (mainly for PMS) are Women’s Relief by Robert Youngs Acupuncture. You can get them right here.
Because of the close connection of breast pain to hormonal changes in your body, it’s usually not just a matter of mixing up a home remedy to fix it. It involves changing your lifestyle, to listen to your body and your heart, and to take the best care of yourself as you can.
Once you discover what works best for you however, you will no longer have to dread those painful days every month!