Fibromyalgia Breast Pain: The Connection Between the Two

Table of contents

Fibromyalgia Breast Pain: The Connection Between the Two

Are you grappling with breast pain and fibromyalgia? You're not alone. Many people with fibromyalgia find themselves dealing with this uncomfortable symptom.

Let's explore what's going on beneath the surface and, more importantly, discuss some practical ways to ease your discomfort.

This article will highlight the potential link between breast pain and fibromyalgia. We'll look at the common causes and the types of pain you might be feeling, and share a range of strategies to help you manage it better.

What's the deal with fibromyalgia causing breast pain?

Breast pain, often referred to as mastalgia, is typically linked to breast conditions, such as fibrocystic breast disease, hormonal shifts related to menstrual cycles, and even emotional stress.

A study in 2015 showed that 47.2% of people who live with fibromyalgia have mastalgia, or pain in the breast area1.

This indicates a substantial overlap between fibromyalgia and breast pain. Hormonal fluctuations, involving progesterone, estrogen, and thyroid-regulating hormones, are known to intensify fibromyalgia symptoms2.

It's likely that other biological mechanisms also contribute to both conditions. For example, people who have both fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome often report more intense breast pain than those who only deal with one of these tough conditions3.

The role of central sensitivity syndrome (CSS) in fibromyalgia-related breast pain

Central sensitivity syndrome (CSS) is a medical condition in which the nervous system becomes highly sensitive to stimuli that wouldn't ordinarily cause pain.

Studies suggest that the way the brain and nervous systems processes and produces pain might be different in those with fibromyalgia, making them feel breast pain more sharply, even when nothing is touching or physically damaging their breasts.

So, your body might react with pain in a wide area, even when it's just a small spot – or no spot – that's the real issue. But, importantly, your pain is very, very real.

Could psychological factors be influencing fibromyalgia & breast pain?

We’ll say it again, your pain is not “in your head”. However, mental wellbeing can influence breast pain when dealing with fibromyalgia.

While ongoing research is unraveling the complexities, studies reveal that a significant number of people with fibro – about 80% – also struggle with mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. 

These emotional health issues seem to amplify the sensation of pain in the breast area4.

What are the symptoms of fibromyalgia breast pain?

Pain in the breasts that's connected to fibromyalgia can feel like:

  • a persistent soreness that just doesn't seem to go away
  • a heavy feeling, as though your breasts are weighed down
  • extra sensitivity, making even the light brush of your shirt uncomfortable
  • a sensation that your breasts are too full, almost like they're engorged
  • swelling that makes it seem like your breasts have gotten larger.

It's pretty common for this kind of pain to affect both breasts, though it's not unusual for one to hurt more than the other. The pain can also spread beyond the breast tissue, sometimes extending out to the underarm area or even down the upper arm.

Cyclic vs. non-cyclic breast pain

Fibromyalgia can cause breast pain that fluctuates with the menstrual cycle, known as cyclic mastalgia. Cyclic breast pain aligns with hormonal changes in the body and typically begins a few days before menstruation and decreases in pain as it ends.

On the other hand, there's a type of breast discomfort that doesn't follow any schedule and can pop up out of the blue, known as non-cyclic mastalgia.

This kind can be a bit trickier to figure out because it doesn't move to the rhythm of your menstrual cycle.

Instead, it could be down to a variety of things – maybe you're under a lot of stress, you've pulled a muscle, or a medication you're taking is giving you side effects.

Diagnosing fibromyalgia breast pain

To diagnose fibromyalgia your doctor will rely a lot on what you tell them about your pain, so it’s useful to track your symptoms over time.

Ruling out other causes

Unfortunately, there’s no test for fibro, so when doctors are looking into breast pain for someone with fibromyalgia, they first need to rule out potential other causes.

Conditions like fibrocystic breast changes, common among those with fibromyalgia, can cause a sore, lumpy sensation in the breasts. And it’s different from the musculoskeletal chest wall pain that can also occur in fibromyalgia patients.

Your doctor will probably conduct a physical examination, as well as blood tests and scans, such as mammograms or ultrasounds, to rule out other conditions before they give you a diagnosis.

To figure out if the pain you're feeling in your breasts is due to fibromyalgia, doctors will also want to know your period cycle, if you're going through menopause, and if you're on any hormone treatments.

What is the breast pain questionnaire?

The Breast Pain Questionnaire (BPQ) is a specialized assessment tool used to evaluate the severity of mastalgia, especially in the absence of any known breast pathology or history of breast disease.

This questionnaire comprises various questions that delve into the pain's intensity and character as experienced in the breast area.

The BPQ scores are divided into three categories according to the pain's severity: mild (0–100), moderate (101–200), and severe (>200). These scores help doctors classify the pain level by determining the final breast pain score.

The BPQ can help healthcare providers:

  • gain a deeper insight into your experience of pain
  • customize treatment plans to better suit your individual requirements
  • provide a detailed framework for you to express the nuances of your pain
  • facilitate more effective communication between you and your healthcare provider
  • improve your outcomes.

Treatment strategies for fibromyalgia breast pain

A multidisciplinary approach to chronic pain management is the gold standard of care. It encompasses a combination of physical activity, rehabilitative therapies, and psychological support. This comprehensive approach not only aims to reduce pain but also significantly enhances the overall quality of life for people living with fibromyalgia.

Retraining your pain response

Here at MoreGoodDays®, we're all about helping you get a handle on your breast pain. We know it's not just about the ache in your chest – it's about how your mind and your life play into that pain, too.

We know that pain is more than just a physical thing. It's tied up with your thoughts, feelings, and the world around you. So, we've got a whole plan to help you understand why your breasts might be hurting and what you can do about it.

We're going to dive into the science of pain and show you how stress, the way you think about pain, and even your daily routines can change the way your breasts feel. By getting to grips with this, you can start to take control and reduce the pain's hold on your life.

Practical techniques, based on neuroplasticity principles, are key. Examples include:

  • Exercise and movement: Engaging in regular, gentle exercise can be a game-changer for easing your breast pain. It's about more than just building muscle; it's about lifting your spirits and keeping your body flexible. You don't need to push yourself to the extreme – a leisurely walk or some easy yoga can significantly relieve pain and improve your day.
  • Psychological support and stress relief: Harnessing stress control and adopting relaxation practices can significantly shift your experience. Imagine having a set of tools that enable you to steer through the stormy seas of physical or emotional distress with tranquility. This journey is not solely about diminishing stress – it's about initiating a cascade of positivity that can alleviate your breast pain and improve your life's quality.
  • Quality sleep: Pinpointing and mitigating factors that interrupt your sleep, from stress in your daily life or late-night eating habits, is crucial. Developing a bedtime routine can pave the path to restful sleep. Sleep quality only mitigates the discomfort in the breast area but also aids in the overall management of fibromyalgia symptoms. Introducing aerobic activities during your day to boost blood flow and employing calming techniques prior to bedtime can greatly enhance your ability to fall into deep, restorative sleep.
  • Nutrition and diet: A well-balanced diet helps maintain general wellness and can ease specific symptoms associated with fibromyalgia. Consider limiting your intake of sugar, refined carbohydrates, processed foods, and alcohol, and incorporating more anti-inflammatory foods into your meals to reduce pain.

When it comes to dealing with fibromyalgia, we get that everyone's journey is unique. That's why our team is here to offer one-on-one support that's just right for you. We'll work together to find strategies that fit your life and help ease that troublesome breast pain.

Medication as an enabler

Medications might also be part of your journey, even though they won't solve everything.

Simple pain relievers like paracetamol and ibuprofen can take the edge off your breast pain temporarily. Your doctor might also suggest a mix of other medications, such as antidepressants, which work on your brain's chemistry to ease the pain by calming down the central nervous system and its pain responses.

If tension in the chest muscles contributes to your breast pain, muscle relaxants can be a saving grace. They work to ease those constricted muscles, offering much-needed relief to the tender breast area.

More information & support

For more information and support, fill out our suitability survey or get in touch. We can help you to work towards reducing pain severity, flare-up frequency, and emotional distress.

  1. Sen M, Kilic MO, Cemeroglu O, Icen D. Can mastalgia be another somatic symptom in fibromyalgia syndrome? Clinics (Sao Paulo). 2015 Nov;70(11):733-7. doi: 10.6061/clinics/2015(11)03. PMID: 26602519; PMCID: PMC4642489. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4642489/
  2. Schertzinger M, Wesson-Sides K, Parkitny L, Younger J. Daily Fluctuations of Progesterone and Testosterone Are Associated With Fibromyalgia Pain Severity. J Pain. 2018 Apr;19(4):410-417. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2017.11.013. Epub 2017 Dec 14. PMID: 29248511; PMCID: PMC6046191. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6046191/
  3. Erdrich S, Hawrelak JA, Myers SP, Harnett JE. A systematic review of the association between fibromyalgia and functional gastrointestinal disorders. Therap Adv Gastroenterol. 2020 Dec 8;13:1756284820977402. doi: 10.1177/1756284820977402. PMID: 33343707; PMCID: PMC7727037. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7727037/
  4. Galvez-Sánchez CM, Duschek S, Reyes Del Paso GA. Psychological impact of fibromyalgia: current perspectives. Psychol Res Behav Manag. 2019 Feb 13;12:117-127. doi: 10.2147/PRBM.S178240. PMID: 30858740; PMCID: PMC6386210. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6386210/

Fibromyalgia Breast Pain: The Connection Between the Two

Table of contents

Fibromyalgia Breast Pain: The Connection Between the Two

Are you grappling with breast pain and fibromyalgia? You're not alone. Many people with fibromyalgia find themselves dealing with this uncomfortable symptom.

Let's explore what's going on beneath the surface and, more importantly, discuss some practical ways to ease your discomfort.

This article will highlight the potential link between breast pain and fibromyalgia. We'll look at the common causes and the types of pain you might be feeling, and share a range of strategies to help you manage it better.

What's the deal with fibromyalgia causing breast pain?

Breast pain, often referred to as mastalgia, is typically linked to breast conditions, such as fibrocystic breast disease, hormonal shifts related to menstrual cycles, and even emotional stress.

A study in 2015 showed that 47.2% of people who live with fibromyalgia have mastalgia, or pain in the breast area1.

This indicates a substantial overlap between fibromyalgia and breast pain. Hormonal fluctuations, involving progesterone, estrogen, and thyroid-regulating hormones, are known to intensify fibromyalgia symptoms2.

It's likely that other biological mechanisms also contribute to both conditions. For example, people who have both fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome often report more intense breast pain than those who only deal with one of these tough conditions3.

The role of central sensitivity syndrome (CSS) in fibromyalgia-related breast pain

Central sensitivity syndrome (CSS) is a medical condition in which the nervous system becomes highly sensitive to stimuli that wouldn't ordinarily cause pain.

Studies suggest that the way the brain and nervous systems processes and produces pain might be different in those with fibromyalgia, making them feel breast pain more sharply, even when nothing is touching or physically damaging their breasts.

So, your body might react with pain in a wide area, even when it's just a small spot – or no spot – that's the real issue. But, importantly, your pain is very, very real.

Could psychological factors be influencing fibromyalgia & breast pain?

We’ll say it again, your pain is not “in your head”. However, mental wellbeing can influence breast pain when dealing with fibromyalgia.

While ongoing research is unraveling the complexities, studies reveal that a significant number of people with fibro – about 80% – also struggle with mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. 

These emotional health issues seem to amplify the sensation of pain in the breast area4.

What are the symptoms of fibromyalgia breast pain?

Pain in the breasts that's connected to fibromyalgia can feel like:

  • a persistent soreness that just doesn't seem to go away
  • a heavy feeling, as though your breasts are weighed down
  • extra sensitivity, making even the light brush of your shirt uncomfortable
  • a sensation that your breasts are too full, almost like they're engorged
  • swelling that makes it seem like your breasts have gotten larger.

It's pretty common for this kind of pain to affect both breasts, though it's not unusual for one to hurt more than the other. The pain can also spread beyond the breast tissue, sometimes extending out to the underarm area or even down the upper arm.

Cyclic vs. non-cyclic breast pain

Fibromyalgia can cause breast pain that fluctuates with the menstrual cycle, known as cyclic mastalgia. Cyclic breast pain aligns with hormonal changes in the body and typically begins a few days before menstruation and decreases in pain as it ends.

On the other hand, there's a type of breast discomfort that doesn't follow any schedule and can pop up out of the blue, known as non-cyclic mastalgia.

This kind can be a bit trickier to figure out because it doesn't move to the rhythm of your menstrual cycle.

Instead, it could be down to a variety of things – maybe you're under a lot of stress, you've pulled a muscle, or a medication you're taking is giving you side effects.

Knowledge is power

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Diagnosing fibromyalgia breast pain

To diagnose fibromyalgia your doctor will rely a lot on what you tell them about your pain, so it’s useful to track your symptoms over time.

Ruling out other causes

Unfortunately, there’s no test for fibro, so when doctors are looking into breast pain for someone with fibromyalgia, they first need to rule out potential other causes.

Conditions like fibrocystic breast changes, common among those with fibromyalgia, can cause a sore, lumpy sensation in the breasts. And it’s different from the musculoskeletal chest wall pain that can also occur in fibromyalgia patients.

Your doctor will probably conduct a physical examination, as well as blood tests and scans, such as mammograms or ultrasounds, to rule out other conditions before they give you a diagnosis.

To figure out if the pain you're feeling in your breasts is due to fibromyalgia, doctors will also want to know your period cycle, if you're going through menopause, and if you're on any hormone treatments.

What is the breast pain questionnaire?

The Breast Pain Questionnaire (BPQ) is a specialized assessment tool used to evaluate the severity of mastalgia, especially in the absence of any known breast pathology or history of breast disease.

This questionnaire comprises various questions that delve into the pain's intensity and character as experienced in the breast area.

The BPQ scores are divided into three categories according to the pain's severity: mild (0–100), moderate (101–200), and severe (>200). These scores help doctors classify the pain level by determining the final breast pain score.

The BPQ can help healthcare providers:

  • gain a deeper insight into your experience of pain
  • customize treatment plans to better suit your individual requirements
  • provide a detailed framework for you to express the nuances of your pain
  • facilitate more effective communication between you and your healthcare provider
  • improve your outcomes.

Treatment strategies for fibromyalgia breast pain

A multidisciplinary approach to chronic pain management is the gold standard of care. It encompasses a combination of physical activity, rehabilitative therapies, and psychological support. This comprehensive approach not only aims to reduce pain but also significantly enhances the overall quality of life for people living with fibromyalgia.

Retraining your pain response

Here at MoreGoodDays®, we're all about helping you get a handle on your breast pain. We know it's not just about the ache in your chest – it's about how your mind and your life play into that pain, too.

We know that pain is more than just a physical thing. It's tied up with your thoughts, feelings, and the world around you. So, we've got a whole plan to help you understand why your breasts might be hurting and what you can do about it.

We're going to dive into the science of pain and show you how stress, the way you think about pain, and even your daily routines can change the way your breasts feel. By getting to grips with this, you can start to take control and reduce the pain's hold on your life.

Practical techniques, based on neuroplasticity principles, are key. Examples include:

  • Exercise and movement: Engaging in regular, gentle exercise can be a game-changer for easing your breast pain. It's about more than just building muscle; it's about lifting your spirits and keeping your body flexible. You don't need to push yourself to the extreme – a leisurely walk or some easy yoga can significantly relieve pain and improve your day.
  • Psychological support and stress relief: Harnessing stress control and adopting relaxation practices can significantly shift your experience. Imagine having a set of tools that enable you to steer through the stormy seas of physical or emotional distress with tranquility. This journey is not solely about diminishing stress – it's about initiating a cascade of positivity that can alleviate your breast pain and improve your life's quality.
  • Quality sleep: Pinpointing and mitigating factors that interrupt your sleep, from stress in your daily life or late-night eating habits, is crucial. Developing a bedtime routine can pave the path to restful sleep. Sleep quality only mitigates the discomfort in the breast area but also aids in the overall management of fibromyalgia symptoms. Introducing aerobic activities during your day to boost blood flow and employing calming techniques prior to bedtime can greatly enhance your ability to fall into deep, restorative sleep.
  • Nutrition and diet: A well-balanced diet helps maintain general wellness and can ease specific symptoms associated with fibromyalgia. Consider limiting your intake of sugar, refined carbohydrates, processed foods, and alcohol, and incorporating more anti-inflammatory foods into your meals to reduce pain.

When it comes to dealing with fibromyalgia, we get that everyone's journey is unique. That's why our team is here to offer one-on-one support that's just right for you. We'll work together to find strategies that fit your life and help ease that troublesome breast pain.

Medication as an enabler

Medications might also be part of your journey, even though they won't solve everything.

Simple pain relievers like paracetamol and ibuprofen can take the edge off your breast pain temporarily. Your doctor might also suggest a mix of other medications, such as antidepressants, which work on your brain's chemistry to ease the pain by calming down the central nervous system and its pain responses.

If tension in the chest muscles contributes to your breast pain, muscle relaxants can be a saving grace. They work to ease those constricted muscles, offering much-needed relief to the tender breast area.

More information & support

For more information and support, fill out our suitability survey or get in touch. We can help you to work towards reducing pain severity, flare-up frequency, and emotional distress.