Breast pain, or mastalgia, is a common problem that can cause discomfort and anxiety and undermine a person’s quality of life.
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Many people find that their breasts feel tender or painful in the days leading up to a period. Most find that the pain goes away once their period begins or shortly after. However, some may find that the pain does not go away — even after their period has ended.
This article will outline some reasons that the breasts may remain sore after a period has ended. It will also offer some advice on when to see a doctor for breast pain, along with some treatment options they may recommend.
There are two general categories of breast pain: cyclic and non-cyclic.
Cyclic breast pain occurs at regular intervals and is related to hormonal changes that occur throughout the menstrual cycle.
Estrogen levels also peak midway through the first half of the menstrual cycle, before ovulation. This can cause cyclic breast pain that worsens after a period.
Cyclic breast pain is the most common type of breast pain among premenopausal women. Breast pain is usually cyclic if it:
- appears around the same time each month
- affects both breasts
- causes the breasts to feel lumpier
Non-cyclic breast pain is not related to the menstrual cycle, so it is not associated with any particular pattern. It may be constant or intermittent, and it usually affects only one breast.
Cyclic breast pain can sometimes cause breast soreness after a period ends. This can be the result of the peak in estrogen levels during the first half of the menstrual cycle.
However, breast soreness after a period ends can occur for a variety of other reasons.
The sections below outline some possible causes of breast pain after a period ends.
Pregnancy triggers hormonal changes that can cause the breasts to become swollen and tender.
A person may not be aware that they are pregnant, particularly if they mistake early pregnancy spotting or implantation bleeding for a period. These types of bleeding are common during the early stages of pregnancy.
Some other possible symptoms of early pregnancy include:
- nausea or vomiting
- more frequent urination, particularly during the night
- increased vaginal discharge
- unusual tastes, smells, and cravings
A person should take a pregnancy test if they experience any breast pain after having what they believe to be a period. This is especially important if the person is experiencing other possible symptoms of pregnancy.
A number of medications can cause breast pain. Some of these include:
- hormone replacement therapy drugs, which may trigger cyclic breast pain
- certain hormone treatments
- some antidepressants
A person should talk to a doctor if their breast pain coincides with taking a new drug. They should never stop taking a medication unless their doctor tells them that it is safe to do so.
Breast or muscle injury
An injury to the breasts may cause pain in one or both of them, depending on the location of the injury.
Sustaining a blow to the breast may cause sudden and intense pain or pain that gradually worsens. A person may also notice a bruise develop on the breast. However, the breast does not have to be bruised for the injury to be painful.
Sometimes, an injury to one of the following areas can cause pain in or near the breast:
- the chest
- the shoulder
- the arm
Mastitis symptoms tend to come on quickly, and they typically affect only one breast. The symptoms may include:
- a flushed, swollen, and painful area on the breast
- increased warmth or heat within the affected breast
- a burning pain that may be constant or only happen while breastfeeding
- a wedge shaped lump in the breast
- white or blood tinged nipple discharge
Thrush is a type of fungal infection. It usually develops due to the yeast-like fungus Candida albicans. This fungus normally lives harmlessly on a person’s skin, but it can sometimes multiply out of control and cause an infection.
Thrush can develop on any part of the skin, including the nipples. Breast and nipple thrush (BNT) is more common among people who are breastfeeding.
Possible symptoms of BNT include:
- itching, burning, or cracked nipples
- nipples that appear flushed, shiny, or flaky
- a blister-like rash on the nipples
- shooting pains in the breast during or after breastfeeding
- intense nipple or breast pain that does not improve following better latch-on or positioning during breastfeeding
Sometimes, pain from another area of the body feels as though it is coming from the breast.
Some conditions that may cause this type of pain include:
- Costochondritis: This refers to inflammation of the cartilage between the ribs. It typically causes a sharp, shooting pain that worsens with movement or when taking a deep breath.
- Acid reflux: Sometimes, acid reflux causes a burning pain in the chest. A person may feel that the source of the pain is in their breast.
- Gallbladder issues: Some people with gallbladder issues report experiencing pain in the breasts. Gallbladder pain usually occurs near the ribs on the right side of the body and may radiate to the back or shoulder blades.
Breast cysts can be round or oval and range in size from a few millimeters to several centimeters across. They may be soft or hard.
Many people have breast cysts but are unaware that they have them. Someone may only notice a cyst once it becomes painful. This may happen due to hormonal changes or an increase in the size of the cyst.
According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer does not usually cause pain. However, it can cause pain in some instances.
A person should see a doctor if they experience any of the following:
- cyclic breast pain that is severe enough to undermine daily function
- a change in the pattern of cyclic breast pain
- non-cyclic breast pain, which could indicate an infection or disease
- symptoms of infection, such as flushing, swelling, and fever
- pain with breastfeeding, which may indicate an infection
- any type of lump or growth in the breast or armpit
- any possible symptoms of breast cancer, such as a change in the size, shape, or texture of the breast or nipple
The best treatment for breast soreness after a period depends on the cause. Some possible treatment options include:
- birth control pills for cyclic breast pain
- over-the-counter pain relievers for cyclic breast pain and muscle injuries
- gentle massage for muscle injuries
- warm compresses and antibiotics for mastitis
- antifungal medication for thrush
- surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy for breast cancer
- treating and managing any underlying health conditions, such as acid reflux or gallstones
- changing medication type or dosage for drug-related breast pain
There are many potential causes of breast soreness after a period has ended. Common causes include injury, infection, and benign growths. In some cases, the condition that is causing the pain will clear up without the need for medical treatment.
Less commonly, breast pain may be a symptom of breast cancer. Anyone who experiences any possible symptoms of breast cancer should see a doctor for diagnosis. Early detection and treatment typically improve the treatment outcome.
People should also seek medical treatment for any type of non-cyclic breast pain and for cyclic breast pain that changes in pattern or severely affects daily functioning. A doctor will work to diagnose the cause of the pain and provide appropriate treatments.