Medically Reviewed by Dr. Melissa Thompson, PT, DPT, MTC
Dr. Thompson is board certified and the owner of Louisiana Pelvic Health. Her expertise is in alleviating bladder, bowel, and sexual pain symptoms during pregnancy, postpartum, and throughout a woman's life.
Your breasts are achy, sore and tender, the thought of putting on a bra brings tears to your eyes.
The stabbing, throbbing pain occurs more and more but what’s causing it?
Could endometriosis be responsible?
Yes, endometriosis can contribute to tender, sore and swollen breasts.
Below discusses the impact endometriosis has on your breast health and how to relieve the pain.
What Causes Sore Breasts?
The top three causes of breast soreness and pain are hormone imbalance, menstruation, and medications.
Reason 1: Hormone Imbalance
Endometriosis is linked to an imbalance of estrogen, but did you know estrogen affects breast health too?
Estrogen stimulates breast cell development and is produced in small amounts from breast tissue. If your body produces too much estrogen you may experience breast swelling and soreness.
Stress also creates an imbalance of cortisol which decreases progesterone production a hormone that helps fight endometriosis. Increased cortisol and decreased progesterone can cause breast tenderness.
Reason 2: Menstruation
Changes in hormone levels during menstruation cause cyclical breast pain.
This type of pain is usually associated with heaviness, tenderness or tightness in the breasts two weeks prior to menstruation and can last throughout your cycle.
Since endometriosis exacerbates pelvic pain during menstruation it is reasonable to believe it can also increase breast pain.
Reason 3: Medications
Traditional treatments of endometriosis often include hormone therapies such as contraceptives, antagonists and progestin therapy.
Hormone therapy has been shown to reduce the growth of endometrial tissue but, as with most medications, these treatments come with many side effects including tenderness and soreness of the breasts.
Does Endometriosis Influence Breast Pain?
Endometriosis’s influence on breast pain is two-fold:
The hormonal imbalance which stimulates endometrial tissue growth and medications used to treat the disease are both contributing factors of breast pain.
Hormone fluctuation is an inevitable biological occurrence. Hormones change during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause.
Endometriosis is a result of atypical hormone fluctuation including an imbalance of estrogen which leads to extreme pain in the female reproductive system.
Estrogen is a powerful hormone that develops and maintains the female reproductive system.
Too little estrogen can lead to vaginal dryness, breast tenderness, irregular periods, and changes in mood.
Too much estrogen can cause weight gain, changes in menstruation and is linked to endometriosis.
Progesterone is produced by the body during ovulation to prepare the endometrium for pregnancy.
This hormone has also been used to treat endometriosis because while estrogen stimulates endometriosis progesterone does the opposite by inhibiting endometrial tissue growth.
While progesterone is a wonderous help in relieving endometriosis it causes milk glands in the breasts to swell leading to soreness, heaviness, and tightening of the breast tissue.
Inflammation Could Be Related
Inflammation is the body’s reaction to endometrial tissue growth which affects not only the pelvis and abdomen but also causes inflammation and swelling in the breasts.
Endometriosis Breast Swelling: Why Does This Happen?
As mentioned above, high levels of estrogen, hormonal changes during menstruation and medications used to treat endometriosis all contribute to breast swelling and inflammation.
How to Relieve Breast Pain, Swelling, and Soreness
Breast Massage: Using natural oils or lotions to massage your breasts. This increases blood flow, relaxes muscles and reduces pain.
Heat and Ice: Heat increases oxygen and nutrients which can alleviate soreness. Ice can reduce swelling in the breasts.
Avoid Caffeine: Caffeine creates inflammation in the body which aggravates endometriosis symptoms as well as breast pain.
Be mindful of your salt intake: Salt causes the body to retain which leads to swelling and bloating.
When To Worry About Breast Pain
70% of women experience breast pain in their lives. While most breast pain is temporary and shouldn’t cause alarm there are some signs that may point to something more serious.
- If you experience any of the following symptoms contact your doctor:
- Cracked nipples, changes in nipple color or unexplained nipple discharge
- Dimpling of the breast, this is when the skin around the breast looks pitted and uneven similar to an orange peel
- Lumps in the breast
- Sores on the breast that do not heal
At this time there is no conclusive evidence to suggest a link between breast cancer and endometriosis however both diseases share common risk factors and affect similar percentages of women. Monthly breast self-exams and mammograms are proven to detect breast cancer. Studies show women with stage 1 breast cancer (meaning it was found and treated early) have a 98-100% survival rate.