Everything You Need to Know About Cyclical Breast Pain

Nicole Day
By Nicole Day
Head and Shoulders Photo of Michelle Meyer
Edited by Michelle Meyer

Published September 8, 2022.

A woman, seated on a couch, with her hand pressed tightly against her chest.

Breast pain or mastalgia is very common in women of all ages and most experience it at some point in their lives. Unfortunately, this pain or tenderness in the breasts can cause a lot of anxiety, but remember that breast pain on its own isn't necessarily a sign of an underlying condition.

There are 3 main types of breast pain:

  • Cyclical breast pain: The pain is linked to your menstrual cycle because you experience sore, tender breasts during your period.
  • Noncyclic breast pain: Pain is experienced outside of the period window.
  • Chest wall pain: It feels like the pain is in your breast but it's actually coming from somewhere else, such as a pulled muscle in the chest.

Breast pain is different for every woman and can range from minor discomfort to severely disabling pain that inhibits daily activities. It's important to know the difference between the types and levels of breast pain as it may be giving red-flag indicators that there's an issue that needs further investigation.

1. Symptoms of Cyclical Breast Pain

Many women experience mild breast tenderness, however, the pain can be severe or long-lasting for others. The 3-5 days leading up to a period are usually the worst, while some women experience pain up to two weeks before a period which then eases soon after the period starts. The severity of the pain and discomfort typically differs from month to month.

Pain can affect both breasts. It's usually worse in the upper and outer parts of the breasts and may travel to the inside of the upper arm. Your breasts may also feel lumpy and more swollen. This lumpiness is generalized, therefore not leading to a single, definite lump forming.

These symptoms can significantly affect everyday activities. Physical activity, such as jogging, as well as hugging friends and loved ones, and sexual activity can be painful. The pain may also interfere with sleep.

2. Relation Between Menstruation and Breast Pain

Breast pain is often linked to the menstrual cycle and can become sore 3-5 days before your period starts, while pain can stop after it starts. Breast pain is caused by hormone imbalances—a rise in estrogen and progesterone levels—right before your period. These hormones make your breasts swell and can lead to tenderness and discomfort.

Additionally, some women begin to have pain when they ovulate. The pain continues until the start of their menstrual cycle. The pain may be barely noticeable, or it may be so severe that you can’t wear tight-fitted clothing or handle close contact of any kind. It may be felt in only one breast or as a radiating feeling under your arm. Being aware of your menstrual cycle phases will help you prepare for the possible oncoming breast pain by having those remedy strategies ready!

3. Remedies for Soothing Cyclical Breast Pain

While cyclical breast pain can be incredibly frustrating and uncomfortable, there are some suggested methods to alleviate the symptoms:


Bras are the houses for our breasts—no one likes an uncomfortable house that doesn't treat its occupants well. During the daytime, wear a well-fitting bra that provides the necessary support but at the same time is comfortable and not squashing your breasts. When you sleep, wear a soft-support bra and during exercise, wear a good sports bra that prevents the breasts from bouncing around too much.

Herbs and Oils

Many women swear by using evening primrose oil because it eases their PMS symptoms, such as breast tenderness, feelings of depression, irritability, swelling, and bloating from fluid retention. Pregnant women, those planning to become pregnant, and people with epilepsy should not take evening primrose oil without checking with their doctor first.

Dietary Changes

Your diet can drastically affect your body and how you feel. Eating the best foods for pain relief can help ease cyclical breast pain. This includes avoiding large amounts of caffeine and alcohol, eating a low-fat diet that's high in fiber, avoiding tobacco, taking vitamin E and magnesium supplements (magnesium supplements can also relieve symptoms associated with menstrual headaches), and drinking plenty of water. Your diet may also be causing heartburn before your period.


For many women, a warm bath or shower is their main choice of relaxation. The heat helps to relieve period cramps, relieve lower-back pain during PMS, and can ease breast pain, leaving you feeling better.

If none of these remedies help ease the pain and tenderness, you can always try over-the-counter pain medication from your local pharmacy.


Although understanding more about your breast pain won’t cure it, it may help you to get back some control over your life. It's often also reassuring to know that many other women are dealing with the same thing and that it's part of your body’s normal pattern of changes over its cycle.