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What can cause breast pain

Updated on August 29, 2008
Soviet breast care poster circa 1930
Soviet breast care poster circa 1930

Women of all ages sometimes experience breast pain. This can be worrying if they have never experienced it before and can cause worry and anxiety about the cause. There are many different possible causes, and different treatments to alleviate them.


Breast pain is commonly caused by hormone changes in the body. If the pain comes and goes in cycles this is often the cause. Some degree of discomfort is common before a period, but the degree varies a lot between women. The rising level of hormones at puberty can also cause pain. This happens in some boys as well as in girls. The hormone changes at the beginning of pregnancy will also cause a degree of breast tenderness. Breast pain will often become more severe as menopause approaches. This pain goes once menopause has passed, unless HRT is used.

Pregnancy increases breast size and may cause pain
Pregnancy increases breast size and may cause pain


Breast-feeding can be extremely painful. The breasts engorge with milk and the swelling causes pain. In addition if the baby is not latched on properly nipples can be cracked and sore. The let down reflex is itself painful for some women. It is possible to get fungal infections of the nipples during breast-feeding and this can cause pain. If the feeding does not empty certain parts of the breast then mastitis, or infection of the milk glands can occur. This feels like a hard lump in the breast that is hard to the touch and warm. If untreated as well as the pain the mother can be generally unwell, sometimes quite severely.


Breast pain is not a symptom of breast cancer until it is quite well developed. The pain will initially be localized, and will be constant. A lump will be felt in the breast if pain is present. If there is unexplained discharge from or puckering of the nipple see a doctor'


Pain in the breasts can come from other sources. Trapped nerves in the back or rib area can be felt as breast pain. The heart does not have pain nerves of its own and the pain of a heart attack is often felt in other areas, commonly the shoulder but sometimes the breast. A breast that has been injured will be painful, but the cause is usually obvious.


Certain drugs cause breast swelling and may cause pain in both female and male patients. The most common of these are spironolactone and cimetidine. Alcoholics with liver damage often experience breast pain. The rash of shingles can appear on the breasts, causing pain.


The most important thing to do first is get an accurate diagnosis of the cause of the pain. Once this is achieved the different causes of breast pain can be treated accordingly. Simple over the counter painkillers can be used for the pain. Anti-inflammatory drugs are the most effective, but some people cannot use them. In that case use acetaminophen.

If the cause is an infection, either mastitis or thrush, then appropriate treatments should be taken. Safe alternatives are available so that breast-feeding can be continued. The pain of mastitis or engorged breasts is also very effectively relieved by chilled cabbage leaves placed inside the bra, and by the application of hot and cold packs. Guidance on the correct position of the baby for feeding should be sought.

Hormonally caused pain is most often treated by the use of evening primrose oil and vitamin B supplements, taken either continuously or cyclically.

Other causes of breast pain are best treated by a doctor.


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      meedah 2 years ago

      I have breast pain after 7 month of lumps surgery wat should I do?

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      dhoney 2 years ago

      I saw my menses on the 25th of january then my breast started paining after two weeks till now. And I taken home pregnancy test and its negative. So pls what is wrong with me.

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      permla 3 years ago

      I hav breast pain for 4 week after seeing my period both breast an is painful an I went to see doctor an he said is nothin serious but is killin m

    • profile image

      Johne947 3 years ago

      I am in agreement with pretty much everything that you mentioned entirely! Excellent website document! eddacdeedeed

    • profile image

      Ron 5 years ago

      I am glad that I spoted this hub, exactly what I was searching for.

      Ron from Fitness

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      Honey T 5 years ago

      My both breast is painin me. The right one pain me more and it pain move to my neck, my armipt, shoulder infact the pains move. Pls any one with same problem, should pls help me.

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      Nancy McClintock 5 years ago from Southeast USA

      thanks for sharing .I just went for mammogram normal but I do notice pain from time to time.

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      Linda 5 years ago

      I am 29 and I do experience breast pain every month before my period comes. thank very much for the eligtment. But thus that mean am ovelating? Please I want to know

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      Joy 5 years ago

      I'm 17,It's remaining 3 days 2 my period and i discovered that my breast is paining me,am i alright?

    • profile image

      Bev 5 years ago

      I had a breast reduction 8 months ago and still experiencing breast pain what is causing this

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      RAEL LAKES 5 years ago


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      sharon 5 years ago

      my right breast is aching... And it started 4weeks after i had an abortion... I dnt know what 2 do.

    • profile image

      Catherine 5 years ago

      I have fellings of breast pains about 3yrs ago, after several breast examination, i found one lump but i was afraid after some monts past i found another lump, it's paining me seriously especial one week to my period. 8monts ago i had a surgery to remove the 2 lump, three mont after the surgery the pains stoped. But now after five monts the pains started again so serious. I examine myself no other lump pls help and tell me wat to do. Thanks

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      Lucky.. 5 years ago

      I have pain in both breast from two or three days ,when i press it ..I had late my period 18 days last month... i checked with doctor and find simple cyst in my right ovary but doctor will discharge in next period..nothing to worry....This month again I hadn't period till today..after 20 days...what to do... Plz tell me..

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      magnus 5 years ago

      what is the cause of pain just under the breast

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      Jessy 6 years ago

      I have been experiencing breast pain. The pain comes after seven days of my period and continues till my period comes.

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      Breast Reduction Sydney 6 years ago

      This is an excellent hub. One extreme example that is becoming increasingly common is breast reduction surgery. More and more women each year are turning to this option and it is less of a taboo.

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      Rachel B.W. 8 years ago

      Thank you so much!Your article about breast pain enlightens me.I'm 47 and I suffered breast pain for weeks already. My mammogram and ultrasound didn't find anything that causes the pain. I was also checked by my ob-gyne, still no lump whatever found thanks God! but the pain still after reading your article I can see that I'm maybe on menopause because since I had my dnc last year of february my menstruation didn't come back till last dec that I had like a spotting for two days...other than that until now I still don't have my regular mentrustion, this means what I suffered now is due to my menopausal stage. Thanks again, more power!