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sore breasts and pain that shoots up into my arm pits

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Hi there

Breast pain, also known as mastalgia, mammalgia and mastodynia, is common and may include a dull ache, heaviness, tightness, a burning sensation in the breast tissue, or breast tenderness. If the pain is linked to the menstrual cycle, it is known as cyclical mastalgia (cyclical breast pain).

In most cases, breast pain affects the upper, outer area of both breasts - the pain can sometimes spread to the arms.

In the majority of cases, mastalgia starts between one and three days before a woman's period starts, and gets better by the end of her period. For some women, the pain starts many more days before the beginning of their periods.

Although older (postmenopausal) women can have breast pain, it is much more common in perimenopausal (around the menopause) and premenopausal females.

Here are some key points about mastalgia. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.

  • Breast pain can be referred to as mastalgia, mammalgia or mastodynia.
  • In the majority of cases, breast pain is not a sign of breast cancer
  • Breast pain commonly affects the upper, outer area of both breasts, though pain can spread to the arms.
  • Breast pain is most common in perimenopausal and premenopausal females.
  • Breast pain is normally defined as "cyclic" (cyclical) or "non-cyclic" (non-cyclical).
  • Clinical breast examination can determine whether there are any lumps, changes in nipple appearance, or nipple discharges.
  • Further tests can be requested if a lump or unusual thickening of tissue is detected, or a specific area of breast tissue is particularly painful.
  • Sometimes it may not be possible to determine precisely why breast pain occurs.
  • It is usually possible to solve cyclical breast pain by wearing well-fitted bras and taking simple painkillers.
  • Doctors may recommend a prescription drug if suggested therapies are unable to alleviate the symptoms.

You should see your doctor if:

  • One or both breasts change in size or shape
  • There is a discharge from either nipple
  • There is a rash around the nipple
  • There is dimpling on the skin of the breasts
  • You feel a lump or swelling in one of your armpits
  • You feel pain in your armpits or breast that is not related to your menstrual cycle
  • You notice a change in how your nipple looks
  • You notice an area of thickened tissue, or a lump in your breast.

In the majority of cases, it is possible to solve cyclical breast pain by taking OTC (over-the-counter) painkillers and wearing well-fitted bras. Cyclical breast pain is often unpredictable - it may well just go away in time, and then come back periodically.

Being diagnosed with cyclical breast pain, as opposed to something more serious, can reassure many patients who then decide their condition is easier to live with.

Women with non-cyclical breast pain may need therapy to treat the underlying cause, e.g. for infectious mastitis the patient will be prescribed a course of antibiotics

Some self-help tips for breast pain In the majority of cases, it is possible to solve cyclical breast pain by taking OTC (over-the-counter) painkillers and wearing well-fitted bras.

  • During the daytime, wear a well-fitting bra
  • Many women swear by evening primrose oil. You need to take the capsules daily in order to feel any benefits, which may take two to three months to appear. A study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, however, found that evening primrose oil offered no benefits for breast pain. Pregnant women, those planning to become pregnant, and people with epilepsy should not take evening primrose oil without checking with their doctor first
  • To relieve the pain, take OTC medications, such as acetaminophen (paracetamol, Tylenol) or ibuprofen
  • Wear a soft-support bra during sleep
  • When exercising, wear a good sports bra.

Hope this helps. Good luck

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