#Health and Hygiene

What is breast tenderness? Here’s Why It Happens

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It is quite normal to get that nagging feeling of pain, soreness and tightness in the breasts. These symptoms are usually never serious, and attributes to what is known as breast tenderness or breast pain. Your breasts might end up giving you a little trouble mainly because of the hormonal and reproductive changes taking place within the body. It might also be caused due to dietary changes and by consuming certain medications too. The occurrence of breast pain and tenderness differs from person to person, and not all kinds of pain indicate the emergence of breast cancer.

Breast tenderness or pain has a variety of causes which can be divided into cyclical and non-cyclical. Cyclical breast pain usually occurs due to changes in the reproductive cycle which occurs due to various hormonal changes in the body. Non-cyclical breast tenderness can be caused due to the diet, medications, injury, etc. Let us look into this in more detail.

The 8 main causes of breast tenderness are:

Hormonal Changes 

As aforementioned, this is one of the leading causes of breast tenderness. Your breasts might swell and become tender just 3-5 days before the onset of your menstrual cycle. The  hormones estrogen and progesterone are responsible for this. Breast tenderness also occurs in older women who inching closer towards menopause. This is because the body’s sensitivity towards the hormones increases as it ages.

Pregnancy is another factor which leads to heavy and swollen breasts due to fluctuating hormone levels. The nipples tend to become more sensitive and large.

Fibrocystic Disease

Many women between the age group of 20 to 50 years are often affected by breast cysts. This happens when fluid-filled cysts are formed within the breast tissue. Besides this, the breast lobules swell up and and lump formation might occur due to excessive growth of breast tissue. Although fibrocystic disease is totally harmless, it makes it difficult for doctors to diagnose breast cancer. This disease is credited to the effect of hormones released by the ovaries.


Breastfeeding is another important reason why breast tenderness occurs. There is a chance that your milk ducts have been infected which can cause an itchy, burning sensation on the nipples. Secondly, your breasts might become hard and painful due to the excess amount of milk in them. This condition is called engorgement which might also lead to the stretching of the breast skin. Moreover, you might have a sore nipple if your child isn’t able to suckle properly.


Intake of hormonal medications such as birth control pills cause pain in the breasts. This is because these pills contain estrogen and progesterone which might trigger some reactions that will affect the breasts. Besides this, Hormone Replacement Therapies (HRT) and infertility treatment might also lead to this side effect.


Diets that are high in the amount of fat, refined carbs, etc can lead to breast pain. Fatty acids found in vegetable and animal oils tend to disrupt the hormonal balance, thereby causing breast tenderness. Foods rich in caffeine are also responsible for breast tenderness.

Problematic Bras 

It is important to wear bra of a proper size in order avoid any strain on the breasts. A bra which is too tight-fitting will tighten the hold the breasts and irritate the skin, thereby leaving them sore and painful. A loose bra won’t provide the adequate support your breasts need, and leave them sagging. This might cause a lot of pain especially when your engaged in activities such as jogging, running, etc. It essential to wear a proper bra that fits especially if you are exercising.

Chest Wall Pain 

The chest wall is an area which protects delicate parts of the body such as the heart, lungs and ribs. This pain is mistaken to be coming from the breasts which crops up if there is a sharp muscle pull in the chest, costochondritis (inflammation around the ribs), bonee fracture, etc.


A person undergoing a breast surgery will experience breast pain. However, the severity will vary from person to person. The surgery might lead to a scar formation which could be responsible for this. If the pain persists, it can lead to long-term effects such as difficulty in raising the arm, increased sensitivity in the breast, numbness, etc. [Pic Credit: Irish Cancer Society]

Disclaimer: All information shared here is gathered for your benefit from public sources. However all medical conditions must be addressed by going to a doctor