If you have them, you might love your boobs (and you should), but sometimes they can be painful to touch and get in the way of other activities, like working out. All that jumping around when they are tender sucks. Plus, there are weird things that make your breasts extra sensitive, based on hormonal fluctuations, lifestyle changes, prescriptions, and medical issues. Instead of freaking out, realize that your ta-tas can get sore and that's totally normal (in most cases). Getting a doctor's opinion can help, but there's a quick guide as to when you can expect some discomfort.
As a certified health coach, I work with clients on feeling comfortable in their bodies and being aware of their hormonal cycles and changes. As long as you're prepared for the consequences, that breast sensitivity might not feel as bad. Of course, there are some surprising reasons you might not know about (and that's why I'm writing this article), but generally, hormonal-related issues form patterns, so it won't come as such a shock. By mentally and physically preparing, you can treat your breasts with some extra care when the time comes. Here are 10 reasons why your breasts are tender to touch and might look a bit swollen.
1. Your Period Is Coming
"If you notice pain in both breasts, it may be due to hormonal changes since female hormones like estrogen would typically affect both breasts equally," say John Kim, MD – Professor, Division of Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Robert Dorfman, MSc – Research Fellow, over email with Bustle. It's likely to be short-lived. "If you notice breast sensitivity that exclusively tends to occur several days prior to or even during your period, but then resolves after you experience your period (or in the days that ensue), this pain may likely be due to the rise and fall of estrogen associated with the normal menstrual cycle," Kim and Dorfman explain.
2. You're Going Through Menopause
Back to that estrogen, if you're going through menopause, your breasts again might be extra sensitive, say Kim and Dorfman. As estrogen increases, the breast tissue can become a bit sore and have a more heavy feeling, as the breast ducts get bigger. Also, the increase of progesterone can cause swelling of milk glands, which will make your breasts feel sensitive to touch. Yet, as your body transitions through menopause, it should subside.
3. You're Pregnant
Again, estrogen sure is a tricky hormone, sometimes. Kim and Dorfman say that it's common to have sore, sensitive breasts when you're pregnant due to hormone fluctuations. Usually this will happen during the initial first few weeks of pregnancy, but then should subside a bit (depends on the individual, though).
4. You're On Birth Control
Yes, that pill is good for many things: Avoiding pregnancy, lightening your period, and more. Yet, due to estrogen levels, it can make your breasts extra sensitive, say Kim and Dorfman. Discuss with your OB/GYN and see if there's a better alternative if the tenderness becomes too much.
5. You're Taking Certain Meds
"If the breast pain is non-cyclical and does not vary with your menstrual periods, it may possibly be related to a side effect of commonly prescribed cardiovascular medications (such as spironoloactone and digoxin), or even some common antidepressants (such as mirtazapine, venlafaxine, sertraline)," say Dorfman and Kim. Speak to your doctor to discuss side effects and determine whether there are other medications you can take, instead.
6. You Have Higher Prolactin Levels
What's prolactin? Prolactin helps women produce breast milk for breastfeeding post-pregnancy. When these levels are higher, it can cause breast sensitivity and soreness, Kim and Dorfman explain. What's more, "certain antipsychotic medications (such as haldol) work by blocking dopamine receptors in the brain, the blockade of which can in turn lead to rises in a hormone known as prolactin," Kim and Dorfman add.
7. You're Using The Wrong Shampoo
Seems odd, but it's valid. If you're soaping up in the shower and are using the wrong products, you can cause irritation to your breasts, making them tender, say Kim and Dorfman. Here's why. "Ketoconazole - an anti-fungal medication and commonly used ingredient in some shampoos - has also been linked to breast tenderness and swelling in both men and women, Kim and Dorfman caution.
8. You're Wearing The Wrong Bra
Bras that do not fit well can also cause breast pain, especially if they do not offer enough support, Kim and Dorfman say. "Plus, if you are doing a lot of cardio that includes bouncing of the breasts (i.e. running, jumping, etc.), it is especially important to wear a sports bra that provides structural support and neither squishes the breasts nor fits too loosely," Dorfman and Kim add.
9. You Have Costochondritis
What's that? "Costochondritis refers to inflammation of the cartilage that connects the ribs to the breastbones, and is another possible cause of pain in the breast region," say Kim and Dorfman. What's more, "patients with costochondritis often times experience chest pain in the middle and upper rib area on either side of the breastbone that can be painful to the touch," Kim and Dorfman add. Luckily, Oostochondritis is usually benign, and the pain typically goes away in a few days to weeks.
10. Breast Cancer
By far the most serious reason of all, any sudden or severe breast pain, or breast pain associated with nipple discharge or a lump could be cancer, Kim and Dorfman say. Here's a mass that isn't cancerous: "Fibroadenomas are noncancerous breast masses, which can be affected by hormones such as estrogen. These tend to vary in size and sensitivity with the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, or anything else that causes estrogen levels to fluctuate. Fibroadenomas are classically described as smooth, rubbery, and mobile breast masses, and classically occur in premenopausal women," Kim and Dorfman say. Yet, here's a possibly cancerous one: "A breast mass or nipple discharge in a post-menopausal woman is a more significant cause for concern," Kim and Dorfman say. Either way, check out any lumps with your doctor immediately.
Of course, breast sensitivity ranges from mild to intense, as well as harmless to worrisome. With any pain or tenderness, seeing a doctor is a good idea. That way, you'll get clarification as to what's going on in your body and perhaps some relief.