Experiencing breast pain and soreness? Does it come and go with your cycles? Are you having breast pain for 2, 5, 7+ days before your period? Is the discomfort affecting exercise or sleep?
You’re not alone! This is one of the most common symptoms my patients experience.
Why is this happening? Where does it come from? What can you do to reduce the discomfort and balance your hormones?
Often breast pain can appear alongside breast lumps. Discovering this for the first time, can be alarming to say the least. Thankfully much of the time, these symptoms are associated with noncancerous conditions such as fibrocystic changes or fibroadenoma. Nonetheless, these symptoms do reflect chronic imbalances in our health and hormones.
So, what exactly is happening?
You’re probably familiar with the cardiovascular system also known as the heart and blood vessels. Maybe an image of the network of blood vessels all over the body comes to mind – with the heart pumping the blood at the centre of the system.
We have another system of vessels in the body: the lymphatic system. This network of vessels also spreads across the entire body serving as a waste collection system. It removes natural metabolic waste from cells, toxic chemicals and unwanted microbes. As you can imagine, this system runs into a lot of “bad guys” so the lymphatic system works closely with the immune system. As long as there’s efficient lymph circulation, the potential harmful things in our lymphatic “sewage system” are eliminated from the body via urine, stool, sweat, breath and blood. If there’s poor lymph flow, lymph fluid and the potentially harmful substances it contains can accumulate.
Here’s the kicker. Even though we have three times more lymph fluid than blood, the lymphatic system has no pump. No pump!
So how does lymph flow?? Body movement.
You may be familiar with swelling and fluid retention that you can get after surgery, for example after the removal of lymph nodes (called lymphedema). If you’ve seen this, you witnessed the blockage of lymph flow. But there are more subtle signs of lymph congestion like swelling of ankles, bags under the eyes, chronically tender or swollen lymph nodes and/or tonsils and, you guessed it, breast swelling and pain.
Vessels from the breast tissue drain lymph fluid into lymph nodes in the armpits then drain into the veins just above the collarbone. Sluggish lymph flow can lead to the stagnation of lymph in the breast tissue and the surrounding area. This is worsened by hormone fluctuations leaving women feeling breast pain and heaviness; some also feel pain and sensitivity around the ribs/sternum and armpits.
The good news? Simple daily activities can improve breast health and while improving overall hormone balance.
3 Ways to Reduce Breast Pain
- Promote whole body lymph flow:
Physical activity utilizing the whole body is critical for healthy lymph flow. Engage in activities such as jumping/rebounding, running, walking, dancing and yoga every day.Much of our lymph tissue is in our gut! Castor oil pack applied over the abdomen promotes lymph circulation while being anti-inflammatory and very relaxing. Aim to do the castor oil pack 3-4 times per week when you don’t have your period. What is a Castor oil pack? Read more about it here.
- Promote whole body lymph flow:
- Promote healthy lymph drainage from breasts and armpits:The endpoint of the whole lymphatic system is the area just above the collar bones where the lymph fluid drains into the bloodstream. Therefore lymph congestion in this area (due to inactivity or chronic infections) can slow down drainage from the brain, tonsils, breast and the rest of the body so it’s extremely important to keep optimal lymph flow especially in the neck and upper chest area.Dry skin brushing is one simple way to encourage lymph flow: work on the area just above the collar bones first then move out from there, upper ribs, armpits, around the breast then reverse the order back to the collar bone. Use light pressure or quick light brushing strokes upwards to promote drainage just above the collar bone; repeat on the other side.Use a dry soft natural bristle brush, sea sponge, dry towel or the edge of your hand/fingers. Work directly on unbroken/uninflamed skin Before shower or at bedtime, most days Skin may become slightly pink but should be comfortable.
- Balance Hormones:Breast tenderness can change with our menstrual cycle so it’s no surprise that it’s often linked to hormone fluctuations. In my practice, breast tenderness is most often related to estrogen dominance, a pattern of female hormones, where there’s strong estrogen activity and relatively weak progesterone activity.Multiple factors from diet to stress and environmental toxins contribute to this gradual hormone imbalance. In addition to breast pain, by our 30s and 40s, this gradual imbalance can also lead to more severe premenstrual mood changes, adult acne, headaches, fatigue and heavier periods.One of the most powerful ways we can rebalance our hormones is by removing inflammatory foods. Most common offenders are processed foods, sugar, alcohol, wheat and dairy. If symptoms continue to exist, work with a practitioner to identify other foods you may be reacting to. Removing inflammatory foods from your diet can benefit far more than taking a supplement.
Many women who completed our Metabolic Detox program observed reduced premenstrual symptoms including less (or no) breast pain during their next cycle – and this was only after 10 days of an anti-inflammatory diet! Herbs and nutritional supplements can be life-changing when it comes to balancing hormones. Always work with a practitioner when considering supplements for breast pain and hormone balancing.
Breast pain can be an important sign of lymphatic stagnation and hormone imbalance. In Traditional Chinese Medicine premenstrual breast pain is also linked to anger and irritability which, if left untreated, can worsen to migraines, insomnia, high blood pressure or menstrual pain and uterine masses. But a few simple routines like exercise, castor oil pack, dry skin brushing and removing some inflammatory foods can relieve your symptoms quickly while addressing the underlying causes of the imbalance.
If you found this helpful and would like to learn more about women’s health, connect with me here.
To your healthy hormones,
PS. Watch this video where I discuss the 3 Ways to Reduce Breast Pain