By Michele Foley
Since puberty, I have suffered from intense symptoms of PMS. In my 20s, I was finally given a diagnosis of premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), an intense and debilitating form of PMS. One of the unbearable symptoms of this fun disorder is very sore and very tender breasts. When I say sore and tender, what I mean is literal stabbing pain. The kind of pain that feels like someone just sent a million hot, vibrating daggers through your boobs at once. After that, they then decided to twist those daggers for hours on end. Good stuff.
So what gives? Why is it that every month, our beautiful bodies seem to revolt on us by bringing on waves of pain, anguish, and emotional distress? It's, quite simply, hormonal changes, says Dr. Pavika Varma, MD. "Hormonal changes during your period cause transient changes in your breast tissue, which can cause soreness, pain, and discomfort," she told POPSUGAR. "Estrogen acts on the fibrous tissue of the breast, while progesterone acts on the milk ducts and lobules." Additionally, your body is retaining more water (yay, bloat!), causing your breasts to swell, which stretches the nerves and tissue in your breasts, intensifying the pain you're already experiencing.
The good news here is that it's temporary and also a good indicator that your cycle is on track. While PMDD/PMS symptoms aren't a joyous affair, breast tenderness usually occurs one week before your period is due. And while this is a relief in the I'm-not-pregnant sense, it's also something that's helped provide an answer for times I've felt very off kilter. As someone who has dealt with severe depression when PMSing, this physical sign provides comfort that I'm not totally losing my mind, or at least explains why I am.
Though the pain is temporary, it's still uncomfortable, but these things do help quite a bit.
Ibuprofen: I cannot stress how much OTC ibuprofen can help remedy the pain. If your pain is severe, I also suggest speaking to your doctor, who can often prescribe you a higher dosage to help relieve breast discomfort.
Chasteberry: I started using chasteberry, aka vitex, after my friend, a licensed midwife and holistic health practitioner, brought it to my house after a pretty heinous period. It's honestly changed my life. Nicknamed the "woman's herb," it's been shown to help ease PMS/PMDD symptoms, especially breast pain. Used for thousands of years as a natural remedy, several traditional medical studies have shown chasteberry to be effective in treating PMS. The herb is believed to help balance out hormones during a woman's cycle.
A supportive bra: It might not be sexy, but an industrial-strength, full-coverage bra is key to easing away breast pain during this delicate hormonal cycle. The less your boobs are moving around, the less likely you will be in pain. I've gone as far as sleeping in my bra during really painful periods.