Getting a sharp pain in the breast is a relatively common occurrence for women. It may be startling. Or painful depending on the severity. But it’s rarely a cause for concern.
While getting an occasional sharp pain may be normal. Chronic pain is not, which may be indicative of a serious condition.
Listed below are some of the most common causes of sharp pain in the breast. Often times, simple home remedies can help alleviate pain.
What Is a Sharp Pain in Breast?
Mastalgia is the medical name for breast pain, which can range from tenderness when touched to a sharp pain in breast tissue. Almost 70% of women experience it to different degrees throughout their lives. However, out of that number, only 15% may require serious medical treatment for it.
The pain can range from mild to severe. And the pain may be constant or only occur occasionally. It’s more common in women who haven’t experienced menopause. However, post-menopausal women may experience it from time to time.
Breast pain may be hard to pinpoint. Generally, pain in the breast exhibits in one of two ways:
- Cyclical: linked to the menstrual cycle, subsides during or after a period
- Non-cyclical: less common, may have many possible causes including injury
Sometimes, in cases of non-cyclical pain, injury around the chest area and muscle tissue may cause pain in the breasts.
1. Hormone Changes
There are many reasons why women experience pain or tenderness in the breast area. But one of the most common causes is hormone fluctuation associated with a developmental period in a woman’s life, including:
2. Breast Cysts
What are breast cysts? Cysts may form sometimes when the milk ducts or glands go through changes. They are fluid-filled sacs that feel like lumps when palpated. The lumps can be firm or soft.
Breast cysts may or may not cause pain, especially during a woman’s menstrual cycle. These are different from a tumor, though, and are not cancerous.
3. Breast Surgery
In addition, having breast surgery may also lead to long-term breast pain. The severity of the pain may vary depending on the individual.
Certain medications may also cause breast pain in some women. These types of medications are linked to breast pain:
- Some cardiovascular treatments
- Some mental health treatments
- Drugs that impact the reproductive hormones
Other drugs that may affect the breast area include:
- Infertility treatments
Speak to your healthcare provider if you suspect one of your medications may be the cause.
5. Fibrocystic Changes in Breasts
If a woman has a buildup of cysts and fibrous tissue, they may undergo fibrocystic changes and cause one or both breasts to get swollen, tender, or lumpy from the underlying tissue. In addition, there may also be nipple discharge.
It’s relatively common in women between 20 and 50 years of age and is harmless. Nor is it linked to a higher risk for breast cancer.
Adopting a low-salt diet and taking over-the-counter medication for the pain can help reduce some discomfort.
This condition isn’t related to the breasts itself. However, the pain may be confused with breast pain. It happens when the cartilage that connects the breastbone and ribs is inflamed. Arthritis sufferers may also develop this condition.
7. Poorly Fitted Bra
Improperly fitted bras may also cause breast pain. Bras that are too loose or too tight can leave them improperly supported or compressed. Correcting the fit can help with breast pain.
Breastfeeding women are usually no stranger to this condition. It’s caused by a clogged milk duct and is most common to nursing women. It can, however, happen at other times, too. Watch for these symptoms:
- Breast changes including redness, swelling, warmth, or pain
Women with this condition can take antibiotics to treat it.
9. Breast Cancer
According to experts, breast pain is not usually linked to breast cancer. However, women should still contact their doctor if they have any of the following symptoms:
- Lump or pain that doesn’t subside after menstruation
- Lump or other concern in the breast area
- Nipple discharge
- Breast pain that doesn’t go away and has an unknown cause
- Other symptoms like pus, fever, or redness
A doctor may schedule diagnostic tests if the pain is centralized in one area. Also, if the pain is consistent and doesn’t fluctuate in a month’s time, you may need to be tested. Diagnostic tests may include:
- MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)
The results can help the doctor determine if the breast pain is due to breast cancer.
10. Sprain or Injury
Can sprains or injury in other parts of your body cause breast pain? Yes, but it depends on other factors. Sprains that occur in the shoulders, back or neck may cause pain in the breast area. This is due to the way nerves are distributed in the upper torso.
In addition, chest wall pain may also travel and give women pain in the breast area. Some chest wall pain causes may include:
- Pulled muscle
- Inflammation of tissue around ribs
Chest wall pain is distinctive because it gets intense under pressure and may seem to spread down the arm. So it may be simple to check if that is the reason for the breast pain.
Treatment options depend on whether the sharp pain in breast tissue is due to cyclical or noncyclical reasons. However, for cyclical pain, women can try the following treatments:
- Calcium supplements
- Reducing sodium intake
- When pain is at its worst, wear a supportive bra for 24-hours
- Take estrogen blockers
- Try oral contraceptives
- Over-the-counter pain relief medications
For noncyclical pain, women need to consult with their doctor to determine the cause of pain and treatment options.
Breast pain may be alarming for anyone. But for many women, it’s a fact of life and usually tied to their menstrual cycle. However, that’s not the only cause of breast pain.
If you have noncyclical pain, it’d be a good idea to consult with your doctor to determine the cause. Most of the time, it’s not a serious condition and not linked to breast cancer. But it’s better to be safe, just in case.