8 Kinds Of Breast Pains You Should Never Ever Ignore

by Rebecca Endicott
Becca is a writer and aspirational dog owner living in NYC.

If you’re a woman, you know what it’s like to feel breast pain — it’s as simple as that.

Unfortunately, the occasional bout of breast pain (or mastalgia, as it’s formally called) just comes with the territory.

Yes, we were given the incredible gift of life-giving breasts that look great in a demi-cup bra (or running free and wild), but there’s always a price: There’s breast pain for puberty, breast pain for menopause, and plenty of extra breast pain for every year in between.

Still, when women as a group have that much experience with achy bosoms, we start to figure out what’s normal and what isn’t.

If you suspect your breast pain is more than just a little hormonal soreness, you should look into a few of the likely causes and get it checked out straightaway.

Scroll through below for a few of the common reasons your breasts may be feeling less than their best.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

#1: You’re Blocked Up

Blocked milk ducts in breast
Tayra Lucero for LittleThings

If you’re breastfeeding or recently stopped, you might be at higher risk for a clogged milk duct.

It can happen to any woman at any time, though not surprisingly, it’s most common during breastfeeding. It can lead to some scary symptoms, including a solid lump at the duct, inflammation in part of the breast, and pain and tenderness to the touch.

At first, lots of women might panic over the lump. If it comes with a sore spot and red or hot skin in just that area, there’s a good chance you’re looking at a simple duct blockage instead, and may need antibiotics to clear out a brewing infection.

#2: It's The Hormones

Breast pain from hormones
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Hormonal ups and downs can cause lots of breast pain, and many women experience waves of pain right before their period comes.

But most of us know what our period aches and pains feel like, so pay attention if something seems different.

If you’re getting an unexpected swelling or inflammation, another hormonal culprit could be causing it, including pre-menopause or starting a new form of birth control.

#3: An Infection Is Brewing

Mastitis causing breast pain
Tayra Lucero for LittleThings

Women of any age can get mastitis, which is an infection inside of the breast, usually in the fatty tissue.

It can sometime come with a clogged milk duct, so it’s more common in nursing women. However, non-nursing women might get infections from a clogged gland in the nipple or a blocked-up hair follicle, as well as a staph infection from a break in the skin.

A breast infection usually causes swelling and redness on just one side, and a lot of tenderness to the touch.

If you notice these symptoms, you’ll probably need to go to the doctor to get a prescription for antibiotics.

#4: You’re "In The Family Way"

Might be pregnant
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Breast pain doesn’t always herald bad medical news; sometimes it just means there’s a bun in the oven!

In fact, breast pain is usually one of the very first signs of pregnancy: you can start to get swelling and soreness in your breasts as early as the first week of pregnancy, according to What to Expect.

Look out for darkening areolae and a sense of fatigue. If you miss your period when it’s due, you should take a pregnancy test the following week to see whether you’re expecting.

#5: You Have Cysts

Cyst on breast
Tayra Lucero for LittleThings

Breasts are constantly changing, and sometimes those changes can bring pain.

Some women mostly have soft breast tissue, but other women (especially ladies on the smaller side) have more lumpy tissue, which might be more prone to cysts.

Cysts are fluid-filled sacs that might cause lumpiness and tenderness on the outer edges of the breasts. They are very rarely dangerous, though it’s still a good idea to check in with your doctor in case they become infected.

#6: You Need To Cut Caffeine

Considering cutting out caffeine
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Now, most of us can’t function without our morning cup of joe, but this is a case of everything in moderation.

One or two cups of coffee a day has been scientifically proven to be good for you, but caffeine can also cause inflammation and has been linked to breast tenderness.

The rule of thumb: don’t go over two cups. If you are really sensitive to caffeine and even a taste bothers you, switch to decaf coffee or herbal tea for your morning pick-me-up.

#7: Your Bra Doesn’t Fit

Putting on bra
Tayra Lucero for LittleThings

The woman-bra relationship is complicated, and there are days when we just feel like throwing them out entirely.

That’s especially true when they might be leading to pain and irritation.

Pay close attention to where you feel breast pain: if it’s suspiciously close to a tight underwire or scratchy bit of lace, it could be a sign that your girls want to be free.

Even if you aren’t about to ditch the bra completely, go to a bra store and get a fitting. Always employ the “try before you buy” rule.

#8: It’s Something More Serious

Looking at breast cancer symptoms
Tayra Lucero for LittleThings

Almost all of the time, breast pain is harmless, or something that can be quickly dealt with in one cycle of antibiotics.

Breast pain rarely connects to cancer, though it can on very rare occasions.

Inflammatory breast cancer can have similar symptoms to a simple breast infection, and swollen lymph nodes can cause breast pain and indicate lymphoma.

If you have any suspicious symptoms, get them checked out right away, just so you can rule out the scary stuff early on.

And don’t forget to SHARE this important guide to breast pain with every woman you know!