If you’ve ever had breast pain around your period to the point that the light touch of your bosom can bring you to your knees or had to hold your ta-ta’s close to your chest when going down stairs, you know what cyclical mastalgia is… It’s that monthly breast pain that comes before your period. And, you’re not alone: 90% of women are affected by premenstrual syndrome (or PMS) and most experience breast pain among the symptoms.
What to expect when you're expecting your period:
According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, breast pain may include any discomfort, tenderness or pain in the breast or underarm areas. It can affect one or both breasts and may radiate through your arms. Pain may be felt as a dull ache, tightness or heaviness, or may include a burning sensation.
Cyclical mastalgia generally becomes more intense a few days before a period begins. In some cases, pain may start a couple of weeks before menstruation, spanning the length of the luteal phase (second half of the cycle). Normally, this type of breast pain alleviates once the menstrual phase of your cycle ends.
For some women, lumpy breast tissue, called fibrocystic breast disease, is associated with breast pain. In the majority of cases, these lumps are benign (non-cancerous). Breast pain, no matter the severity, is not considered a symptom of breast cancer. In fact, most women with breast cancer do not experience any pain in their breasts at all. However, it is important to discuss any changes in your breasts with your doctor.
So what’s the cause?
While experts are not sure precisely what causes cyclical mastalgia and other PMS symptoms, breast pain is generally considered to be related to changes in hormone levels. Changes in sex hormones – specifically, high estrogen or low progesterone (which creates a relative excess of estrogen), can result in fluid increase and painful swelling in the second half of your cycle. Causes of estrogen dominance can include chronic stress, diet, hormone-disrupting personal care products, gut dysbiosis, and more.
What can we do about it?
Certain lifestyle changes can minimize cycle-related breast pain. These may include:
- A well-fitting bra (so when your boobs swell, they have some room to grow)
Stress reduction (we love the meditation app Calm)
- Exercise (especially in the week leading up to your cycle, even a light walk or yoga will help to avoid breast pain)
- Reduction of caffeine (which can aggravate symptoms) and salt (which can cause fluid retention)
A diet rich in cruciferous veggies and/ or fiber to support your body’s natural elimination of estrogen
Over the counter pain medicine (such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen) can be used to reduce the discomfort of cyclical mastalgia. they will not be able to prevent the pain from recurring. In order to do so, therapy to treat the underlying cause must be included.
Clinical evidence suggests that certain herbal medicines may be effective in countering breast pain:
Vitamin E has been widely used to manage cyclical mastalgia because it helps reduce this inflammation and acts as an antioxidant, which protects your body from free radicals (which can wreak havoc on healthy cells). Experts recommend 15 mg of Vitamin E as a supplement for adult women.
Studies show vitamin E to be especially effective in treating breast tenderness when combined with Evening Primrose Oil, which is rich in Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA) and is known to be useful for all kinds of PMS symptoms
The herb chasteberry (aka vita berry) has been used for centuries to treat conditions associated with fluctuating hormone levels. Studies have shown that the herb, which causes the pituitary gland to block the release of prolactin, is effective in relieving symptoms of cyclical mastalgia.
One of the reasons eating cruciferous veggies is so effective in improving cyclical mastalgia is they are rich in the precursor to diindolylmethane (DIM), which is involved in estrogen metabolism in the liver. Taking this as a supplement can be useful in the treatment of cyclical mastalgia.
- Using your very own Period Pain Free personalized herbal supplement, which has ingredients that are known to balance hormones, reduce inflammation, and minimize pain.
Cyclical mastalgia may continue until a woman has reached menopause. While it is normally not a condition to be concerned about, you should make an appointment with your doctor if you experience any visual changes to your breasts or nipples, discharge from the nipples or a lump or swelling in your armpit.