Breast tenderness - tight chest - causes and symptoms

Breast tenderness - tight chest - causes and symptoms

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Mastodynia or mastalgia is the technical term for chest pain. This affects women in particular, but sometimes also men. The breasts are uncomfortable, they feel heavy and painful. Many women suffer from it every month during their menstruation, young and old alike, with tension often increasing with age. With the menopause, this pain usually stops.

The female breast

The breast tissue of women is far more complex than that of men and changes several times in life. Extreme hormonal conditions such as puberty, pregnancy, menstruation, premenopause and menopause show up in the breasts as a feeling of tension.

Cause number 1: menstruation

Most women feel chest tension during the period, with some of the breasts hurt severely. Lids, hands, feet and legs can also swell. Some women are afraid of bleeding month after month because of these symptoms.

In the first half of the cycle the estrogens set the tone, in the second half progesterone, the corpus luteum hormone, comes to the fore. This alternating bath of hormones ensures that it stores water in the breasts and causes pain.

The hormone prolactin, which occurs more frequently in the second phase of the cycle and adjusts the gland cells to produce milk, also changes the breast tissue. The blood flow is increased, the gland cells grow and produce secretions.

Some women are particularly sensitive to prolactin, which is likely to increase chest pain, and is thought to be a cause of breast formation and chest pain in men whose pituitary gland also emits this hormone.

Breast tenderness out of period

Out-of-period hormonal changes can cause pain as well as hormonal extremes during menstruation. This is especially true for the birth control pill. Breast tenderness is a typical side effect of estrogen-stressed pills. But contraceptive sticks under the skin that contain progestins can also cause pain.

Pregnancy and tight breasts

The mammary glands grow enormously during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Now they are making the foremilk, and when the baby is sucking, the breast milk. The so-called Montgomery glands form, which emit an oil that keeps the nipples soft during breastfeeding.

Tensions and a hardened breast are not a disease at this time, but a normal biological process.

However, the woman must take care to avoid a milk congestion, which can lead to breast inflammation. Hygiene, balanced nutrition and a breastfeeding technique where milk flows freely are important.

A milk jam first manifests itself as severe pain in the affected breast, as a local hardening and as a “gnubbel”. Are the pains severe, is the chest red and hot, do muscle pains and fever occur? Then it is almost certainly a bacterial infection.

Breast cancer a cause?

When you complain of breast tension, many women fear that you have breast cancer. Check-ups can never hurt, but: Pain is not a common symptom of breast cancer.


During the menopause, the level of the sex hormones drops. The breast tension in menstruation stops. Breast inflammation can develop in women of all ages, mostly as an infection with bacteria.

The level of progesterone decreases continuously during menopause, and after the menopause the female body no longer produces the hormone. As a result, estrogen dominates because the ovaries do not produce progesterone - but estrogen does.

Progesterone drives the water and therefore inhibits water retention in the tissue, which can trigger estrogen. If there is no more progesterone, the estrogen may store more water, which leads to pain and tension in the chest.

If the glandular tissue regresses during menopause, cysts can develop, which also lead to tension.

Outside of menstruation

Breast tenderness - and pain outside of menstruation can be divided into:

- Extension of the aisle
- Treatment with sex hormones
- inflammation of the breast (mastititis)
- cysts
- adipose tissue necrosis
- breast cancer
- medication

Harmless causes

Breast tensions in women can also have harmless causes: For example, a bra may not fit well or be made of material that irritates the skin and causes pain.

Breast tenderness in men

A tense chest is less common in men than in women, and it usually affects men who have chest swelling (gynecomastia), who have hormonal disorders, or who are otherwise ill.

An overview of the causes:

  • Physiological gynecomastia,
  • Pseudogynaecomastia in obese people (breast gets bigger due to fat tissue),
  • Breast formation due to disruption of the sex hormones, either congenital or through anabolic steroids,
  • Cysts and lumps in the chest,
  • Breast cancer,
  • Alcohol,
  • substances similar to hormones in lavender oil.

What helps?

Extracts of the monk's pepper release the messenger substance dopamine and thus balance the hormone level of the milk-forming prolactin. This relieves tension, but it takes several weeks for the plant to take effect.

Massages with lavender or rose oil are just as recommendable as cold wraps with curd cheese or preparations with St. John's wort.

Psychological stress affects hormone levels and can promote breast tenderness. Relaxation exercises are suitable to level the mirror again, i.e. autogenic training, yoga or meditation.

When to the doctor?

If the breast changes or hurts, you should always go to the doctor. In most cases, the causes are not dangerous, but chest and nipple pain can indicate heart problems or breast cancer. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Dr. phil. Utz Anhalt, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch


  • Eva Marbach: Estrogen dominance, evm Verlag, 2009
  • Pschyrembel Online: (accessed: August 29, 2019), mastodynia
  • Helga Richter; Max Haidvogl: Homeopathy for Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Georg Thieme Verlag, 2000
  • Volker F. Duda; Rüdiger Schulz-Wendtland: Breast Diagnostics: Complementary Use of All Procedures, Springer, 2017
  • ZoherNaja et al .: "Thoracic paravertebral catheterization for more than one year: A report of mastodynia", in: Journal of Clinical Anesthesia, Volume 47, 2018,
  • W. Wuttke: "Phytotherapeutic agents for mastodynia, premenstrual complaints and cycle disorders", Der Gynecologist, Volume 33 Issue 1, 2000

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