Many women have been there: Suddenly, there's some soreness in your breasts, and you go from thinking it's just a little tenderness to "I'm pregnant" or "I have a fatal disease." Thankfully, there are a bunch of innocent reasons why you feel sore, and there are a number of ways to tell if your sore boobs are normal or cause for concern. Before you go digging up information on WebMD and sending yourself into a panic, you might want to ask yourself a few simple questions.
"Breast tenderness is a common complaint by women," says Sherry Ross, MD, OB/GYN over email. "Hormonal changes involving estrogen is the main culprit in causing breast pain or tenderness. Other common causes of breast pain in both breasts include pregnancy, breastfeeding, heavy cigarette smoking, excessive caffeine drinking, fibrocystic breasts, and diets high in saturated fats."
Of course, if you're ever unsure, it's best to see a doctor, who can better determine why your boobs are feeling off (better safe than sorry). But if your pain is mild and you think you might be freaking out for no reason, consider these nine ways to tell if your breast soreness is just something normal and no cause for alarm.
1Determine Whether You've Had Coffee
If you hit up the coffee shop earlier this morning, your latte might be to blame. "If you are a Starbucks regular drinking a quad espresso and have breast tenderness, that would be considered normal as a result of drinking too much caffeine," says Ross.
2Have You Been Smoking?
Coffee isn't the only substance that can cause tenderness. "The same would apply if you are a heavy smoker and have breast tenderness," says Ross. "Caffeine and nicotine are common causes of breast tenderness in both breasts."
3Think About When Your Next Period Is
Your breasts tend to be sore a week or two before your period, so if your Aunt Flow is due in town, you're probably in the clear. "Some women experience cyclical changes in their breasts that coincide with their periods," says Nesochi Okeke-Igbokwe, M.D., M.S. over email. "They may sometimes experience very lumpy and tender breasts notably right before menses. These fibrocystic breast changes are not a cause for concern and symptoms typically tend to improve towards the end of the menstrual cycle."
4Check Whether Or Not Both Breasts Are Affected
"Usually normal causes of breast tenderness occur in both breasts," saysRoss. "If only one of your breasts is tender, this could be a cause of concern. Breast infections tend to occur in only one breast, not both."
5Examine How Your Bra Fits
Your boob soreness could come from something you may not have thought of: the fit of your bra. "If you are wearing a bra that is too tight or even too large and does not give you adequate support, then this could contribute to breast soreness," says Okeke-Igbokwe. "Wearing the proper size bra is extremely important to help avoid issues with breast tenderness."
6Think About Your Workout Habits
"It is possible to have some level of muscle strain to the chest wall region with strenuous exercise," says Okeke-Igbokwe. "Depending on the sort of activity you partake in that involves use of the chest wall, you can certainly experience some strain and soreness."
7Look For Possible Injuries
Injury to the chest wall can lead to breast soreness. "For example, if you are involved in a motor vehicle accident or struck by a foreign object, such trauma to the region may lead to sore breasts," says Okeke-Igbokwe.
8Figure Out How Long The Soreness Has Lasted
It's important to know what's normal with your own breasts and track any changes that occur. "Pain that doesn’t resolve after one cycle, pain that is severe, or pain in menopausal women or women at risk for breast cancer should have an evaluation by a physician," says Dr. Raquel Dardik, gynecologist at clinical associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at NYU Langone Medical Center, over email.
9Get A Breast Exam
If you suspect something might really be off, the only surefire way to know what is going on is to see a doctor for a breast exam. "Women should do a breast exam to check for other related things and make sure they have a bra that provides adequate support," says Dardik. Pain that doesn’t resolved should be evaluated