Puberty is an exciting, confusing, and sometimes painful time. As bodies change and grow, discomfort and pain must be dealt with. Developing breasts are tender and swollen. They can itch and burn and make a young person's life miserable. Understanding why breasts hurt during puberty and what can be done to ease the pain will make the transition from childhood to adulthood an easier journey.
Nearly all girls and some boys experience breast pain during puberty. When breasts first begin to grow, they are called breast "buds." These blossoming buds can cause discomfort and pain as they begin to swell. Hormonal changes during puberty tell the body to begin maturing and preparing for adulthood. An increase in estrogen in girls and testosterone in boys occurs at the onset of puberty, causing breast growth and tenderness. Breast growth in boys at the beginning of puberty is normal. It is called gynecomastia and is typically temporary. Once a pubescent girl starts her period, she may feel breast pain just before her cycle begins.
The first indicator that a girl's breasts are beginning to develop is a hard knot or lump beneath the nipple. This lump often causes pain or discomfort. The pain is generally mild, but can still be distressing to young girls. Breast pain accompanied by other puberty symptoms (i.e. pubic hair development, growth spurt) is not cause for concern. In addition to breast pain, a stretching or itching sensation is common.
Breast pain can begin as early as age 7 or 8 in some girls. Other girls may not begin to experience breast pain and growth until 12 or 13. When girls develop breasts is mostly determined by genes. Over five to six years, breasts go through stages of development. Girls can experience intermittent pain throughout this period. Girls typically reach their full physical maturity around 17. Breast pain beyond this point is typically related to menstrual cycles or pregnancy.
Although breast pain is virtually unavoidable during puberty, there are measures to relieve the pain. Pain relievers such as Tylenol can be quite beneficial. Once the breasts begin to swell significantly, a training bra will help support the new breasts and minimize fabric rubbing against the nipples. Talking about your breast pain, or talking to your daughter about her breast pain, will ease anxiety she may feel during this changing and confusing time.
While minimal breast pain is a normal part of puberty, some symptoms may indicate a medical problem. Discharge from the nipples is not a common symptom of puberty. Any nipple discharge during this time should be reported to your doctor. It is not uncommon for each breast to develop at different rates, however, if one breast bud appears to be very red, hot, extremely painful, or accompanied by a fever, consult a doctor.