Why are my breasts painful?

2 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 Population Services Zimbabwe provider.


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


  • Wearing a supportive bra that fits you well during the day, and a soft, comfortable bra at night.
  • Taking paracetamol or ibuprofen.
  • 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, but if you end up with sore breasts, it’s 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. You’re more at risk if you have larger breasts, and for some women the pain can get so bad that it puts them off exercising.

The solution is to wear a well-fitting sports bra every time you exercise. You’ll need to experiment to find the right fit. If you have smaller breasts you might be more comfortable in a compression bra, which looks like a crop top and works by squashing your breasts onto 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 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, you’ll need a really well-fitted bra to be comfortable. It needs to offer great support and not pinch or dig in. Even then the heaviness your breasts can put strain on your back, shoulders and neck causing you pain.

Opting for surgery is a big decision. If you’re seriously considering it, you’ll need counselling to explore all the pros and cons, such as scarring, pain and your ability to breastfeed in future.


A less drastic option might be weight loss, if you have a high BMI. This can sometime also reduce the size of your breasts.


If the size of your breasts is also making it uncomfortable to sleep, you could try wearing a soft bra at night. This may reduce the pull from your breasts on your chest muscles and give your breasts some support.


Does breastfeeding cause breast pain?

It can do. Most women who breastfeed will have sore or aching breasts from time to time.


If you’re breastfeeding and have painful breasts, the problem could be caused by your baby not attaching itself your breast properly. Your baby needs to take a big mouthful of breast to feed properly. If he or she doesn’t, and they just suck on the nipple, it can be very painful for you. It also means your baby won’t be able to get all of the milk out of your breast and that can lead to other issues. Not only will your baby be hungry, but you’re at risk of developing painful problems such as blocked milk ducts or mastitis.

If breastfeeding is hurting, get some advice from a breastfeeding expert. Your Population Services Zimbabwe provider can 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 one of our clinics 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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