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What can I do to help relieve constant breast pain? Can it be avoided?

Breast pain, or mastalgia as its medically known, is suffered by over two thirds of women at some point in their lives. The severity of the pain experienced can vary greatly, but 15% of all cases do require some form of treatment.

Breast pain can be separated into two distinct categories - cyclical and non-cyclical. Cyclical breast pain (accounting for 75% of all mastalgia), is related to how the breasts respond to the changes in your estrogen and progesterone hormone levels which occur in your body each month. It usually manifests itself in soreness in both breasts, particularly in the upper and outer ares, occuring seven days or so before a period.

Non-cyclical, as you may have guessed, is when the breast pain is not connected to menstruation.

Within these two categories (cyclical and non-cyclical), there are many possible reasons for painful breasts, the most common of which are as follows:

Hormonal Imbalance
This cyclical cause of painful breasts is by far the most common cause of all breast pain. A hormonal imbalance is created when the ratio of estrogen to progesterone sways too much in one direction, usually an excess of estrogen over progesterone.

Gallstones
Gallstones are hard crystals made up of cholesterol and other substances that form in the gallbladder. The condition causes pain in the upper abdomen and in some cases the breasts.

Tieke's Syndrome
Tietze's’s syndrome is caused by inflammation of the cartilage that joins the ribs to the breastbone. The inflammation can cause pain, swelling, and tenderness anywhere in the breast area.

Breast Cancer
Although breast cancer does not normally cause significant breast pain, any noticeable abnormalities in your breasts should be taken seriously, and a visit to your local doctor is probably advisable.

However, don't panic when your breasts become painful. Studies have shown that less than 3% of women with breast cancer experienced painful breasts. Sore breasts are much more likely to be caused by another, less serious issue.

So what can you do about breast pain? Assuming your sore breasts are related to related to your menstrual cycle, you can take steps to ease the pain. Firstly, you can wear a softer bra, particularly at night. Secondly, make sure your bra fits perfectly. Go for a professional bra fitting if you are unsure.

Thirdly, try to avoid jogging or other exercises that cause the breasts to move considerably. And finally, try adopting a low-fat diet and avoid high caffeine drinks. Many women have found that such lifestyle changes have helped ease the monthly soreness.

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