Today on A.Vogel Talks Menopause, I'm going to be discussing how to ease breast pain.
Is it normal to have sore breasts during menopause?
So, is it normal to get breast pain in the menopause? Yes, it is. It's one of those very, very common symptoms and those of you that have read my ‘10 top symptoms of 2018’ blog, will know breast pain was certainly one of them.
It does tend to be more common in the peri-menopause when your hormones are fluctuating a lot more. But some people do find that it starts in the menopause and occasionally, it can start after the menopause has completely finished. However, sometimes there can be other issues that you need to be aware of.
What causes breast pain during menopause?
Now, the main causes of breast pain are the hormonal changes that are going on; because your oestrogen and progesterone levels are fluctuating a lot more, that's going to have a lot more action on your breast tissue which in and of itself can then trigger breast pain and discomfort.
But it can be other things that are happening in the peri-menopause and the menopause as well. We know that it's much easier to put weight on, and a lot of women tell me that the breast area seems to be one of the first areas to be affected when weight increases, so this is certainly one of the main factors.
It could be dehydration. What happens is your breast tissue is very spongy and if you get dehydrated, your body is desperate to hold on to as much water as it can.
Thus it will end up storing water in your breast tissue. If you find that as your breast size increases, they get rock-hard and very, very sore, that's very often an indication of dehydration.
Poor fitting bra
It can be your bra size, and I know I've talked about this one before. Your breast tissue’s size and shape can start to change quite dramatically as your hormones fluctuate towards the menopause, and you do need to have regular check-ups to make sure that you've got the right size bra.
It can make a huge difference, especially if you're wearing underwired bras and they're the wrong size. Then, these can actually cut into breast tissue and that can cause a lot of the discomfort as well.
A good tip here would be if you take your bra off and you find that there's great big red marks all at the side of your breasts and round your back, that's very often an indication that you're wearing the wrong size.
A lot of the big department stores will offer a free measuring service and it's really worth doing. Plus, it's a good excuse to buy some new bras as well!
It can be constipation and this is one that we don't often think of. Constipation can change your breasts' shape and size, plus it is another common symptom in the menopause as well. So, if you're getting both together, then you know that there's probably a little bit of a link going on.
What does breast pain during menopause feel like?
What does it feel like? It does tend to be different according to sources. Your monthly period breast pain tends to be more of a kind of dull ache or a sort of heaviness. In the peri-menopause and menopause breast aches can be a bit sorer; it can be a bit of a sharper pain, it could be a stabbing pain as well.
And very often, there's not necessarily a rhyme or reason to it. You may get them at any particular time of the month rather than just before you've got a period due. With this particular breast pain, it can just affect one breast.
You don't necessarily have to get pain in the same place in both breasts, so that's another little indication of peri-menopausal and menopausal breast pain.
How to relieve breast pain
Soothe the pain with heat
So how do you sort this one out? One of the nice things to help, if it's really getting uncomfortable and it's a little bit tender, is a little bit of heat. You can get heat pads or just some microwave bags that you can heat up.
Just make sure you don't have it too hot. The last thing you want to do is really scald your breast, but sometimes just a little bit of gentle heat can make you feel that little bit more comfortable.
Look at a few vitamins and minerals that can help
Look at your magnesium and your B vitamins. These can sometimes work wonders, especially if you're getting other associated symptoms such as stress, anxiety and joint pain. Very often, these can be related to low levels of magnesium and B vitamins as well.
Some women find vitamin E really helpful, but you need to have quite a high dose so you'd be looking at maybe 400 IU on a daily basis. Other women find that fish oils can be very helpful. As far as Evening Primrose Oil goes, we do know that for PMT, when you're getting regular periods, it can sometimes be really helpful for breast tenderness.
The problem is that we can end up taking too much. If you have a diet that's high in Evening Primrose or omega-6 foods, such as a lot of grains and carbohydrates, then you can overdose on omega-6 which then encourages inflammation and can contribute to the pain as well.
So, if you're taking Evening Primrose Oil for the breast pain and it's not getting any better, then maybe look at stopping that and trying your fish oil or your vitamin E oil instead. You might find that this makes a little bit of a difference.
Consider trying Kelp
Some women find kelp really helpful. This is one of those situations when we're not quite sure why it has this effect, but sometimes it's due to iodine deficiency and we know that in the menopause, falling hormones can affect your thyroid.
So, if you're getting symptoms such as sluggishness, fatigue, and breast pain, then you may find that just taking a kelp supplement can make that little bit of a difference. And kelp is great for your hair, too, so it's a lovely one to have as an all-around menopause supplement to take on an on-going basis.
Drink plenty of water
Remember that dehydration can contribute to breast tenderness so, if you’re getting that rock-hard feeling, make sure you’re drinking loads of water on a daily basis.
Limit your caffeine intake
Try and cut out caffeine - things like your high-sugar, caffeine foods can contribute to this particular problem too.
Keep a food diary
If you find that your breast pain and tenderness is intermittent and you can't quite put your finger on the cause, then maybe do a food and drink diary and you might find that there are certain foods and drinks that might be coming along at the same time as the symptoms. This, at least, will then give you that little bit of control to try and manage the situation that little bit better.
Use a natural deodorant
The other thing that not a lot of people think of is, “is your deodorant a factor?" Your antiperspirant essentially blocks the pores under your arms which could be affecting the lymph system around the breast tissue. This could then be a factor contributing to breast pain.
Some women do find that when they go on to a natural deodorant and not an antiperspirant, their breast pain eases up. I know that I used a natural deodorant because breast pain was one of my horrible peri-menopause symptoms and I found that that made quite a difference for me.
I use our lovely Salts of the Earth Deodorant Spray and find it works for all sorts of great things as well. Remember that antiperspirants might also be a factor in your hot flushes, too, so this is a really nice one to try for a couple of months to see if this makes a difference for your symptoms.
Wear a sports bra in bed
Some women find that it helps when they wear a sports bra in bed. If you find that when breast pain occurs it's very, very uncomfortable, then a very nice, loose sports bra can be helpful at keeping everything in that place.
Some extra support
You can look at herbs and supplements, too. If your periods are starting to tail off, or decreasing, or they're starting to miss, then you could look at our Menopause Support. If you're still getting regular periods, and maybe your breast tenderness is getting worse just before you're getting that period, then you can look at the herb Agnus castus because that can often work very well in this situation.
When to speak to your doctor
When do you see your doctor with this one? We need to be very careful with our breasts and look after them really well in the peri-menopause, the menopause, and beyond. So any situation that is worrying you about your breasts, please see your doctor.
If you find that you've tried these self-help remedies and nothing is working then just double-check with your doctor, especially if you find that you're getting some lumps and bumps! Most of us do; I had a few lumps, and the consultant very kindly said, "You’ve just got lumpy breasts." So very often, there's nothing here to worry about, but please get this checked out as soon as you can and especially if you're getting any nipple discharge as well or your nipples are very, very uncomfortable.
There's lots of websites around on how to check your breasts on a regular basis. And I would recommend that all of you out there follow one of those as well, just to keep an eye on your breasts going through the menopause.
I hope you've found this helpful. It's a big subject, and a lot of women find that they get this particular problem, sometimes on and off. Very rarely will you get it for the whole of the menopause, but it is something that most women will certainly experience at some point.
I will see you next week on another edition of A.Vogel Talks Menopause.