Breast pain is medically referred to as mastalgia, and is a symptom that typically occurs prior to menstruation. It may feel like soreness or heaviness while some women describe it as a burning or stabbing pain. This instance of sore breasts (not pregnant) typically occurs in the outer, upper breast area, possibly extending between the breasts and armpits or down the arm.
While the pain may be very minor, it may also be severe enough to interfere with daily life. Chronic or severe pain can also cause depression, anxiety, or stress. Many women are concerned about this symptom, because they immediately suspect it of being a sign of cancer.
Common Causes of Sore Breasts (Not Pregnant)
Sore Breast that Is Cyclical
Experts aren’t sure what the cause of this type of sore breast is, although they believe it is linked to hormonal changes before period. Features of cyclical breast pain include:
- The pain takes place at the same time each month, typically 1 or 3 days before the period begins. It improves after the period.
- The intensity of the pain isn’t always the same.
- This typically affects women before menopause, but those who have undergone menopause may experience it if they receive hormone replacement therapy.
Sore Breasts Following Period
There are many reasons that women experience sore breasts not pregnant following their periods. Normally, the pain will stop during periods, but it can get worse due to diet.
- Methylxanthine derivatives and caffeine are both popular ingredients in food that have a vasodilating action. These items cause the blood vessels leading to the breasts to dilate, causing pain and distention.
- Foods rich in salt can also lead to breast pain since they could cause water retention. If you eat too much salt, there is more water in your body tissues, leading to strain on the breasts.
- Fatty foods, particularly those rich in animal fat, can lead to increased soreness in the breasts as well. Experts aren’t sure why but believe it may be due to the animal hormones within the food.
- Scientists don’t know why dairy products tend to lead to sore breasts either, but there is a link. Some theorize that those experiencing sore breasts not pregnant or extreme breast pain following their period may have an allergy to certain components of dairy products.
There is no need to be concerned about sore breasts following a period unless they are warm to the touch, reddened, have very palpable bumps or abnormal nipple discharges.
Sore Breast that Is Not Cyclical
Most of the time, the causes behind non-cyclical breast pain isn’t clear. However, it can be caused by other medical conditions such as:
- Mastitis: This condition is related to breastfeeding. It leads to painful, swollen breast tissues.
- Breast lumps: There are benign (non-cancerous) causes for breast lumps and some may be painful.
- Breast abscess: This pain comes from pus collection in the breast.
- There may also be pain due to an injury somewhere else in the body, like pulling a chest muscle.
- Although rare, it can also be due to treatments or medications, including antipsychotics, antidepressants, and antifungal medicines.
Treatment for Sore Breasts
If you notice sore breasts not pregnant that are severe enough to warrant treatment, you can try using one of these methods at home:
- Wear a bra that fits better during the day; at night, wear a soft and mildly supportive bra; always wear a sports bra when exercising.
- Try evening primrose oil. There isn’t any scientific evidence to suggest taking evening primrose oil will reduce with cyclical breast pain, but it has helped many women. You can find it in your health food shop or pharmacy. This may not always be an option for you if you are epileptic or pregnant so always talk to your doctor first. They can also guide you to the ideal product and dosage.
- Use castor oil. You can make a castor oil pack by soaking some cloth in castor oil. Then, apply this onto your sore skin for about 20 minutes while lying down.
You can sometimes relieve sore breasts not pregnant with non-prescription medications. Always read the label carefully for safety. Consider these options:
- Tylenol or other medications with acetaminophen.
- NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like naproxen (Naprosyn or Aleve), aspirin (Anacin or Bayer), or ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil).
Contact your doctor if the breast pain lasts over 3 weeks or becomes severe.
What Others Have Experienced
I had a hysterectomy but still had one ovary and had very painful breasts even though I wasn’t menstruating. They were sore enough that I wanted to leave my bra on all day and they were also lumpy. I saw a specialist who suggested taking evening primrose oil capsules for their active ingredient gamma linolenic acid (GLA). I took 240 mg of GLA daily for four months and it worked. I rarely get the pain now.
I used to have breast pain and reduced the amount of dairy I was eating. I completely stopped drinking milk and limited my cheese intake to very little. The pain left but when I tried drinking milk again, it came back. It left again once I stopped. For me, stopping dairy worked.
When Should I See a Doctor For Sore Breasts?
You should always visit your doctor if you notice changes in your breasts in addition to the pain. Changes that indicate the need for a visit include:
- Symptoms of infection like redness, a high temperature, warmth, or swelling.
- Pain in the breasts or armpits which isn’t related to menstruation.
- A change in the nipples appearance.
- A rash around or on the nipples.
- Dimpling on the skin of the breasts.
- A change in the shape or size of one or both breasts.
- Swelling or a lump in an armpit.
- Nipple discharge which might have blood streaks.
- Thickened tissue or a lump in either breast.