1. You need a new sports bra
In a 2012 "breast kinetics" study, researchers found that unsupported breasts move up to 8 inches in space during running. Therefore, it's no surprise that a British survey conducted a year later of over 1,300 female marathon runners found that 32 of them experienced "mastalgia," AKA "pain in the boob area," which was directly related to both breast size and intensity of exercise. If you experience breast pain after running and you have double Ds (versus doing, say, after yoga with a pair of A cups), chances are, your sports bra and physics are to blame for the sore muscles and suspensory ligaments in your breasts.
(Note: if you're confused because your sports bra used to be awesome, take into account how long you've had it: Cosmo's epic fitting checklist gives sports bras a 6-month expiration date, so they might just be getting old).
Another sign of Bad Sports Bra Syndrome (BSBS, according to me), and one more common in small-boobed ladies, is the super pleasant sore nipple. This can happen when your lady friends are moving around too much within your bra, and can lead to very painful chaffing and even bleeding (if you don't believe me, watch men in T shirts run a long distance road race. Friction is a cruel mistress).
If you're experiencing either of these symptoms, get thee to a sporting goods store and be sure to try out a variety of movements in the fitting room.
2. Your hormones are in flux
If you use boob pain as a period tracker, you're not alone. Breast tenderness (especially in the two weeks before your period right up until you get it) is totally a sign that your body is flooded with estrogen which happens when you're obvulating (which was a typo I'm keeping because if your breasts hurt in the middle of your cycle you're obviously ovulating. Obvulating. GET IT). Unfortunately/fortunately, your boobs might also feel sore and/or heavy when you're pregnant or perimenipausal, so panic/celebrate accordingly. Swelling is also common with hormone fluctuations due to enlargement of the breast ducts (sorry for using the word "ducts'), so enjoy that, small-chested ladies!
A slightly less enjoyable symptom caused by hormone changes: "cobblestone" texture. You may notice this a few days before your period, and you can thank progesterone for it. Cobblestone boobs are when you get that weird, lumpy, dense feeling that probably scared you the first few times you noticed it. But don't worry: if the lovely lady lumps are symmetrical, a little bumpiness is totally not cancer (but keep checking though, okay?).
3. Your nipples hate your shower gel
Or your detergent. Or your sports bra (see above). Or your regular bra (lace can be very itchy!). Or they need lotion. Or they need a steroid cream because you have eczema of the nipples, which believe it or not is thing. I get eczema behind my knees, which is neither here nor there. Anyway, if your nipples are itchy or scaly, think of them as eyelids are to the rest of your face: a little more sensitive to changes in your product routine (or to changes in the weather), and a little more in need of moisturizer without any stuff like fragrance. Now you know.
PS. I hate to tell you this but very rarely Paget's Disease causes itchy nipples and it's a kind of cancer. But unless only one of your nipples is fiercely itchy for a long period of time and/or is crusting over (I'm so sorry) probably don't ruin your day worrying about it.
4. You might need a change in medication
- Digitalis preparations,
- Methyldopa (Aldomet)
- Spironolactone (Aldactone)
- Certain diuretics
The Mayo Clinic also notes that certain SSRI antidepressants (serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) are also associated with breast pain, including fluoxetine (Prozac, Prozac Weekly, Sarafem) and sertraline (Zoloft), as is caffeine. Though I'm personally callings BS on that because both my boobs and my caffeine intake are huge, and I've experienced no such nonsense. #casestudy
5. You (very, very rarely) should be worried
OK getting serious for a second, there are a few instances where your boobs might be trying to tell you something life threatening is going on.
-All over "internal"-feeling itchiness (ie. not superficial, skin-deep irritation)
-Sudden nipple inversion
-Changes in the texture of the skin on your breasts (especially "pitting")
One symptom that has not been definitively linked with cancer (or with anything else specific for that matter) but is super weird and worth mentioning is a "vibrating boob" sensation. Doctors have no idea what causes this but it sounds crazy.
I'm picturing something like this, but higher:
Honestly, if your boobs are not vibrating or eating your nipples, they're probably fine, but give them a good feel up once a month just for good measure. And then go live your life. Your girls would want it that way.
Images: Franca Gimenez/Giphy