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  • Ænima May 14, 2009
    May 14, 2009

    Mastalgia, the medical term for breast pain, has not been that well studied, partly because even to this day most scientists are men and don’t have a problem with breast pain.


    Breast pain is very common, but usually goes away quickly. BUT if the pain stays and is severe, then there are several reasons that could be causing this to happen.


    The main and most common reason is hormonal changes or hormonal imbalances. Three major reasons for the hormonal changes could be premenstrual symptons, pregnancy or during menopause. Persistent breast pain three out of four weeks of the month can indicate hormonal imbalance, and if the woman in question is in their 40's, this could be the first signs of perimenopause.


    Breast pain is catagorized in 2 different catagories. Cyclical and Non-Cyclical.

    Cyclical pain can be caused by monthly changes in womens estrogen and progesterone hormone levels each month. It can be accompanied with cysts, thickness, swelling or lumpiness of the breasts or the breast tissues, which this is referred to as fibrocystic change. This pain usually stops when the menstruation period is over for that month, also it stops at menopause unless one chooses to take hormonal therapy in which case the therapy can cause the pain to reoccur.


    Stress can also cause pain, and cause the already happening pain to worsen, especially if the individual does a lot of heavy lifting, strenious activity or puts a lot of stress or strain on her upper arms and chest.


    Non-cyclical pain is not as common, it has nothing to do with any hormonal changes.This catagory of pain can be brought on by injury of the breast tissue or if say a biopsy on the breast has been done.


    Very few complaints of breast pain actually turn out to be breast cancer so that is good news, but you should see a doctor to rule out this possibility just to be on the safe side. Also you should examinate to check for any lumps or anything of that nature.


    Breast pain can be caused by the foods you intake, caffiene is a major one. Caffiene contains a chemical called methylxanthine that causes blood vessels to dilate. This microscopic swelling can cause distention in the breasts and add to the pain. Excedrin has as much caffeine in one pill as a cup of coffee. Diets high in salt increase swelling by causing fluid retention, and this also puts a strain on the breast tissue.Again it doesn’t cause or lead to cancer, so a woman may want to balance her desire for coffee with the discomfort it causes in her breasts. Decaf coffee and teas have less caffeine and most sodas and chocolates do too.


    There is some recent evidence that fatty foods — mostly animal fats — contribute to breast pain. The reason here is less clear but may have to do with the animals’ own hormones, what they have been given to eat, or the way the fat is broken down by our bodies. For some women, dairy products are the culprit. Again the exact reason is unclear. These women may have an underlying allergy to the dairy products or may be reacting again to the hormones that were fed to the cows. The standard American diet in general is proinflammatory, read some articles about omega-3 fatty acids for suggestions on how you can address this imbalance naturally.


    The most common medications that cause breast pain are pills with hormones in them — either birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy (HRT). The amounts of either estrogen or progesterone (or both) may just not be right for a particular woman, or she may react to the additives in the pill or the synthetic compounds. Some psychiatric medications or antidepressants may increase breast pain. Even some cholesterol-lowering and heart medications can cause breast changes.


    The other big contributor to exacerbating breast pain is stress. Again the exact mechanism is unclear. Scientists are only beginning to understand the links between the immune system, our emotions, and our hormones. Everyone has different stress levels and stressors, but it is a truism that too much stress is not good.


    The question always arises, “Do bras help the pain or make it worse?” Again the answer depends on who you are. Bras are not medically necessary; however, most people in Western societies expect women to wear them, and bras do make some clothes fit better. Many women feel better when wearing a bra for support or uplift. Other women prefer not to wear them. If you prefer to wear a bra, it is important to wear one that fits well and is comfortable. Some underwire bras, or too-tight bras, can pinch or cause constant rubbing which irritates skin and breast tissue and leads to pain. It was an old theory that this kind of tissue trauma led to breast cancer, but that has fallen out of favor. A study that concluded bras cause cancer has not been replicated.


    Treatments for breast pain vary widely, again partially depending on your cultural setting. Women in England tend to use evening primrose oil or teas; in Italy they take vitamin E. The French use a cream to rub on their breasts, and in the United States we are told to grin and bear it. All of the above may work for some women. Women in America are also offered birth control pills or a stronger male hormone, Danazol, to control the pain.


    The basic remedy for breast pain is to help your body balance its hormones naturally. So start with dietary changes, dietary supplements (including omega-3’s, vitamin E, and the B’s), gentle endocrine support, and stress reduction, including exercise. It is also recommend you try steps to reduce the estrogen in your body, which includes the xenoestrogens you absorb from the environment.


    While this approach is very effective, many women need additional pain relief. In such cases, I usually suggest the following:

    • Topical (meaning used on the skin, not taken by mouth) iodine can be bought over the counter in the grocery or drugstore, usually for less than a dollar. Apply it in a quarter-sized area once a night on the breast until the brown spot persists overnight, or for one month. most can not explain exactly how this works, but the iodine seems to adjust the hormones just enough to keep the swelling down, or perhaps it is treating some subclinical virus or bacteria. Most of our diets today do not have the same amount of iodine in them that our ancestors’ did. This use of iodine does not seem to impair thyroid function.

    • Bioidentical progesterone support may also be helpful. Consult your healthcare practitioner for guidance.

    • If you can find a therapist trained in lymphatic massage, he or she can be very helpful in treating some types of breast pain. You do not have to have lymphedema or arm swelling for lymphatic massage to help lymph flow and treat the pain. Some have found it very effective in treating upper outer quadrant pain in particular. You can try some breast massage techniques on yourself first, if you want.

    • A minor breakthrough may be NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as Motrin or Advil) creams. They have been used in at least two randomized, blinded, placebo–controlled studies and found to be effective and safe for breast pain. Unfortunately these creams at this time are difficult to find and are available only by prescription or from a compounding pharmacy. But they do work.

    • Castor oil packs help loosen up the breast tissue.

    • Remember that emotional factors can create pain. It’s important to try and identify the source or cause of your pain and deal with it specifically. Sometimes reassurance that it isn’t something bad is enough. Given some time and support, some have found that women can find their unique, personal answers and let go of the pain.

    I hope I helped.




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