7 Ways to Manage Premenstrual Breast Pain

Cyclic mastalgia is another name for breast pain before your period. It's a rather common condition with symptoms that ebb and flow in a predictable way in accordance with your menstrual cycle.

This article explains more about cyclic mastalgia and how it differs from noncyclic mastalgia, which is unrelated to your menstrual cycle. It also details things you can do to ease this kind of discomfort.

Strategies for how to reduce breast pain before your period include:

  • Natural remedies and lifestyle changes (e.g., warm compresses, limiting caffeine)
  • Dietary and nutritional supplements (e.g., vitamin E)
  • OTC medication (e.g., pain relievers)
  • Prescription medications (e.g., hormones)
Woman rubbing her chest
Rob Gage / Getty images

Understanding Mastalgia

The exact cause of cyclic breast pain and swelling is not known, but it's likely related to the normal hormonal changes that occur during the menstrual cycle. Cyclic mastalgia affects women in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, most often in the week before their period begins.

The pain often settles on the top and bottom regions of both breasts, and it can fan out to the underarm, too. Sometimes the breasts can feel tender and swollen at the same time. Most women with mastalgia have cyclic mastalgia.

Noncyclic Mastalgia

The second type of mastalgia—noncyclic mastalgia—has no direct link to the menstrual cycle. In fact, the source of the pain may start somewhere else (like a nearby muscle or joint).

The pain could range from mild soreness to a sharp stabbing or burning sensation. Women who have already gone through menopause are more likely to encounter noncyclic mastalgia.

Causes include:

  • Large drooping breasts
  • High-fat diet, smoking, caffeine
  • Hormonal contraception
  • Pregnancy

An over-the-counter pain reliever like ibuprofen often will help.

Breast Cancer

Breast pain is not a common sign of breast cancer.

The more worrisome symptoms of breast cancer include:

  • A lump in the breast or underarm
  • Inflammation of a breast
  • A change in the size or shape of a breast
  • Irritation or dimpling of breast skin
  • Nipple discharge

If you have any of these symptoms, it's vital that you waste no time contacting your healthcare provider. A breast exam may be recommended, especially if your symptoms and/or age and family history suggest you're at risk.

Natural Remedies

Try a few natural options if you experience breast pain in tandem with your periods and don't want to take medication:

  • Apply warm or cold compresses, as needed.
  • Wear a comfortable sports bra. If the volume of your breasts has increased due to swelling, your usual bra may be too tight. The underwire may be especially uncomfortable. You may wish to choose a soft, supportive cup instead of forcing your swollen breasts into your usual bra.
  • Limit your caffeine intake. In general, scientists recommend that women with mastalgia limit their caffeine intake. It isn't clear how much caffeine it takes to set off cyclic breast pain. But the potential for pain increases with the amount of caffeine consumed.
  • Add flaxseed to your diet. Some evidence suggests that ground flaxseed can help reduce cyclic breast pain. Sprinkle flaxseed in smoothies, add it to baked goods before you pop them in the oven, or top your cereal with a spoonful.
  • Supplement with chaste berry. There is some evidence that chaste berry (Vitex agnus-castus) supplements can help reduce the symptoms of cyclic mastalgia. The typical dose of chaste berry used in studies was between 20 to 40 milligrams daily.
  • Take vitamin E. A good multivitamin might be a good option for you.

Medical Treatment Options

If these natural approaches don't help, your healthcare provider may suggest:

Be sure to tell your healthcare provider about any herbal supplements you may be taking. There is a chance they could interact with these medications.


Cyclic mastalgia is linked to a woman's menstrual cycle, and noncyclic mastalgia is more likely to affect post-menopausal women. The pain can be so severe and worrisome—but it's rarely a sign of breast cancer. Sometimes medication can help, and there are several natural ways to ease the pain if you'd prefer to steer clear of medication.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is breast pain always caused by hormones?

    Soreness in the breast is usually related to hormonal changes that occur with the menstrual cycle. Noncyclic breast pain can be might be related to factors such as trauma or arthritis that radiates to the breast.

  • How do you relieve sore breasts during pregnancy?

    As your body changes, you may need a new bra because an ill-fitting one may not offer enough support. Your nipples may also be sensitive. Using breast shields might help reduce the discomfort.

  • Why do breasts hurt during ovulation?

    Breast pain related to the menstrual cycle is associated with breast swelling and tenderness caused by hormonal changes such as an increase in estrogen, a decrease in progesterone, and an increase in prolactin (a hormone involved in milk production).

8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Stanford Children's Health. Breast pain (mastalgia).

  2. Breastcancer.org. Mastalgia (breast pain).

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What are the symptoms of breast cancer?

  4. Eren T, Aslan A, Ozemir IA, et al. Factors effecting mastalgia. Breast Care (Basel). 2016;11(3):188-93. doi:10.1159/000444359

  5. Vaziri F, Zamani Lari M, Samsami Dehaghani A, et al. Comparing the effects of dietary flaxseed and omega-3 fatty acids supplement on cyclical mastalgia in Iranian women: a randomized clinical trial. Int J Family Med. 2014;2014:174532. doi:10.1155/2014/174532

  6. Ooi SL, Watts S, Mcclean R, Pak SC. Vitex agnus-castus for the treatment of cyclic mastalgia: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2019;2019:7770. doi:10.1089/jwh.2019.7770

  7. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Breast Pain (Mastalgia).

  8. Jaafarnejad F, Adibmoghaddam E, Emami SA, Saki A. Compare the effect of flaxseed, evening primrose oil and Vitamin E on duration of periodic breast pain. Journal of Education and Health Promotion. 2017;6(1):85.

By Andrea Chisholm, MD
Andrea Chisolm, MD, is a board-certified OB/GYN who has taught at both Tufts University School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School.