Why are my breasts painful?

MS Nigeria

19 November 2021


Feeling a twinge of pain in your breasts can be a worry, but breast pain is common and on its own is rarely a symptom of anything serious.

Hormonal changes related to your periods is often the reason why your breasts might feel tender but there are other causes too. Having large breasts, breastfeeding or exercising without the right bra can all result in sore breasts.  Read on to find out about the reasons for breast pain, and what you can do about them.

Is my period making my breasts sore?

It’s normal for your breasts to be painful in the week or two weeks before your period. This is a symptom of PMS (pre-menstrual syndrome) and is known as cyclical breast pain.


You’re most likely to feel a dull, heavy and aching pain in both breasts at the same time. Your armpits may feel achy too.


If you think you’re experiencing cyclical breast pain, it can help to keep a pain diary. For the next two months, make a note of when you’re experiencing the pain and how bad it is. You could add a note to your phone calendar each day. This will help you to better understand when the pain happens and how bad it is. You could then talk through your findings with your local MSI provider.


In the meantime, these tips can help to ease breast pain:


  • Wearing a supportive and comfortable bra that fits you well during the day, and a soft, comfortable bra at night.
  • Taking paracetamol or taking appropriate analgesics
  • Rubbing on a pain-relieving gel.
  • Using a warm or cold compress. Experiment with warm compresses like a hot water bottle or cold compresses like an ice pack, to see which works best for you.


My breasts hurt when I exercise. What can I do?

There’s no doubt that exercise is good for you, however, having to experience sore breasts after every workout would make it hard to stay motivated. Whether you run, play a team sport or work out in front of the TV, your breasts will move around a lot if they don’t have the right support. That can cause chafing and put a strain on the skin and ligaments that support your breasts. Having larger breasts increases the likely hood of experiencing breast pain during or after exercising and for some women, this pain could get severe enough to deter them from workouts.

One solution to this is to wear a well-fitting sports bra every time you exercise. You’ll need to experiment to find the right fit or visit a good underwear store to have your breasts measured to determine the right bra size. If you have smaller breasts, you might be more comfortable in a compression bra, which looks like a crop top and works by firmly compressing your breast on your chest. If you have larger breasts, a sports bra with separate cups will give you more support.

Finding the right bra will not only help to prevent breast pain, it will also make you feel more confident about exercising too.

Would my breasts hurt less if they were smaller?

If you’re wondering if breast reduction might reduce your breast pain, you’re not alone. Lots of women with large breasts who experience breast pain think about this from time to time.

Size does matter when it comes to breast pain. If you have large breasts, having a well-fitted and comfortable bra offers adequate support and prevents pain and discomfort which could be experienced without one. However, some people might still experience some discomfort and pain with heavy breasts as a result of the strain put on the back, shoulders and neck.  

For people with a high body mass index (BMI), weight loss from regular exercises and a controlled but balanced diet could have a resultant reduction in the size of their breasts as well.

Having breast reduction surgery is an option that could be explored for women with large breasts if discomfort and pain persists even after procuring well-fitting bras. A consultation with a specialist doctor would have to be done where counselling and necessary information would be given to such persons if this path is chosen.



If the size of your breasts make sleeping uncomfortable, wearing a soft bra at night could help reduce the pull on your chest muscles by your breasts and offer some support.


Does breastfeeding cause breast pain?

When breast feeding an infant, breast pain could be experienced, and this could be due to a number of reasons.

Chief of these reasons is improper positioning of the infant when suckling. An infant is to be positioned in such a way that an adequate suction pressure is created between the infant’s mouth and the mothers areola. If this isn’t done right, the infant could latch on to the nipple only and this could lead to breast pain.

If breast feeding hurts, visit a breast feeding expert or a health center close to you for advice. Your local MSI provider can be of help. 

Is breast pain a sign of breast cancer?


Breast pain on its own is very unlikely to mean you have breast cancer.


Warning signs of breast cancer include:

  • New lumps in the breast or armpit/underarm
  • Thickening or swelling of part of your breast
  • Skin changes on your breasts, such as irritation, redness, flakiness or dimpling like orange peel
  • A change in size or shape of your breast


If you have any of these symptoms, seek medical help. Talk to us or visit any Marie Stope Centre near you for guidance.


Remember these symptoms could also by caused by many other conditions. It’s important to get them checked out, but try not to worry until you know more.

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