Breast tenderness is a common cause of discomfort among women, especially women who are lactating, although men may rarely develop symptoms. Fortunately, the symptoms of breast tenderness usually resolve within a few days, although home care or medical treatments may be necessary for symptoms.
Tender breasts may feel sore and warm to the touch; appear swollen or lumpy; have discoloration including bruises or red streaks; or feel unusually sensitive.
People may notice tenderness in the breast when getting dressed or during physical activity; women who are nursing a baby may notice tenderness during a breastfeeding session.
Women who are breastfeeding may have tenderness from a poor latch, thrush, a plugged duct or a breast infection; other causes of tender breast symptoms include poor-fitting clothing; premenstrual syndrome; chest injuries; cysts; and tumors of the breast.
Breast tenderness may cause a woman to shorten breastfeeding sessions or wean prematurely; tenderness may also cause discomfort and difficulty sleeping at night.
Women who are nursing and have breast tenderness that persists or gets worse should continue nursing but seek evaluation from a doctor or lactation consultant to prevent a decrease in milk supply.
Applying a warm, moist compress to the tender area and taking pain relievers as recommended by the doctor can reduce pain, and regularly nursing from both breasts can reduce tenderness caused by lactation.