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What Are Abdominal Pain and Breast Tenderness?

Overview

Abdominal pain is pain that originates between the chest and the pelvis. Abdominal pain can be cramp-like, achy, dull, or sharp. It is often called a stomachache.

Breast tenderness is when your breasts feel painful or tender to the touch. Breast swelling or changes in the breast’s consistency may accompany the condition. The pain can be mild or so severe that it impedes daily activities.

When abdominal pain and breast tenderness occur together, the cause is often related to changes in hormone levels.

Many women experience cramps in their lower abdomen when menstruating. During menstruation, hormone-like substances cause muscle contractions that help the uterus expel its lining. Some experts believe that severe contractions restrict blood flow to the uterus, increasing pain.

Fluctuations in the hormones estrogen and progesterone can cause changes in breast sensation. These fluctuations can also cause changes in the consistency of your breasts. Your breasts may start to feel denser or rougher to the touch, particularly on their outer portions. Hormonal fluctuations can also lead to abdominal discomfort and pain.

Here are nine possible causes of abdominal pain and breast tenderness.

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Birth control pills (estrogen or progesterone)

Birth control pills (estrogen or progesterone)

Birth control pills, also called oral contraceptives, are medications you take by mouth to prevent pregnancy. Read more to find out about the side effects of birth control pills.

Pregnancy

Pregnancy

On average, a full-term pregnancy lasts 40 weeks. There are many factors that can affect a pregnancy. Women who receive an early diagnosis and prenatal care are more likely to experience a healthy pregnancy and give birth to a healthy baby. Read more about pregnancy.

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Menstruation

Menstruation

Menstruation occurs when the uterus sheds its lining once a month. The lining passes through a small opening in the cervix and out through the vaginal canal. Read more about menstruation.

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a condition that affects a woman’s emotions, physical health, and behavior during certain days of the menstrual cycle, generally just before her menses. PMS symptoms start five to 11 days before menstruation and typically go away once menstruation begins. Read more about the symptoms of PMS.

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Endometriosis

Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a disorder in which the tissue that forms the lining of your uterus grows outside of your uterine cavity. The lining of your uterus is called the endometrium. Read more about endometriosis.

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Ovarian cysts

Ovarian cysts

The ovaries are part of the female reproductive system. Sometimes, a fluid-filled sac called a cyst will develop on one of the ovaries. Many women will develop at least one cyst during their lifetime. Read more about ovarian cysts.

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Ectopic pregnancy

Ectopic pregnancy

In the case of an ectopic pregnancy, the fertilized egg does not attach to the uterus. Instead, it may attach to the fallopian tube, abdominal cavity, or cervix. Read more about ectopic pregnancy.

Breast cancer

Breast cancer

Breast cancer may not cause any symptoms in its early stages. The tumor may be too small to be felt, but an abnormality can be seen on a mammogram. If the tumor can be felt, the first sign is usually a new lump in the breast that was not there before. Read more about breast cancer.

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Ovarian cancer

Ovarian cancer

The ovaries are small, almond-shaped organs located on either side of the uterus. They are where eggs are produced. Ovarian cancer can occur in several different parts of the ovary. Read more about ovarian cancer.

See your doctor

When to seek medical help

Most abdominal pain and breast tenderness symptoms will subside after a menstrual period or with time. However, you should see a doctor if your symptoms last consistently for two weeks or if your abdominal pain increases or affects your ability to eat and drink. It is important to seek medical attention immediately if these symptoms are accompanied by fever.

Make an appointment to see your physician if you also have the following symptoms:

  • menstrual cramps that disrupt your life for multiple days
  • bloody or brown discharge from your nipple
  • changing lumps in your breast tissue
  • inability to sleep or perform daily tasks due to your symptoms
  • loss of control over bladder or bowel movements
  • one-sided lumps in your breast tissue
  • positive home pregnancy test

Your physician may recommend tests, such as a mammogram or ultrasound, to evaluate abnormalities in breast tissue.

This information is a summary. Seek medical attention if you suspect you need urgent care.

Treatment

How are abdominal pain and breast tenderness treated?

Treatments for abdominal pain and breast tenderness will address the underlying causes. If you are taking birth control medications or hormones, your physician may recommend adjusting the hormone dosages to reduce breast tenderness. It is beneficial to have a well-fitting bra without an underwire. This can be worn when needed to help reduce breast tenderness, especially right before your period starts.

Home care

Eating a healthy diet, avoiding excess fat and salt, and drinking plenty of water can help reduce instances of abdominal discomfort. Fluids that contain caffeine, including coffee and tea, may contribute to your upset stomach.

Over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and acetaminophen can help alleviate the pain of menstrual cramps. A warm bath or a heating pad placed on the lower abdomen can also help.

If your abdominal pain is causing nausea, drinking an electrolyte-containing beverage while eating soft, bland foods such as applesauce and crackers may help with symptoms. You should take a home pregnancy test if you are experiencing nausea along with abdominal pain.

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Prevention

How can I prevent abdominal pain and breast tenderness?

A healthy lifestyle can help to prevent some abdominal pain and breast tenderness symptoms. However, because these symptoms are often related to normal hormonal changes in the body, there are few preventive steps you can take. Consult a medical professional if your symptoms are severe.

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