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As if the common symptoms of PMS like irritability, bloating, fatigue and acne weren’t annoying enough, many women also experience mastalgia, more commonly known as breast pain and tenderness. This breast pain affects up to 70 percent of women at some time in their lives and 10 percent of women have moderate to severe breast pain more than five days per month. If you experience monthly breast discomfort, you’ve probably tried traditional remedies like ibuprofen and heavy support bras without fabulous results. But new research is shedding light on treatment plans that are beneficial in treating symptoms of PMS and specifically cyclical breast pain.

The study tested the effectiveness of vitamin E and evening primrose oil in treating the symptoms of mastalgia. Eighty five women who experience breast pain before their periods were divided into four groups: one received only vitamin E, another group received only evening primrose oil, another group received a combination of both, while the last group was given placebo treatment. While there was not significant reduction in pain in any of the groups, there was statistical evidence suggesting that minimal pain relief was achieved after six months of daily doses of 3,000 mg of evening primrose oil and 1,200 IU of vitamin E.

Breast pain is classified as either cyclic (related to the menstrual cycle) or noncyclical and the symptoms are different. Cyclic mastalgia is the most common type of breast pain and is a PMS symptom for many women. It typically causes increasing breast pain and heaviness along with possible swelling and lumpiness during the two weeks before the start of the menstrual cycle. Cyclic breast pain occurs more often in younger women of childbearing age and usually disappears altogether at menopause.

Why do some women experience premenstrual breast pain and not others?  Medical professionals haven’t settled on one decisive answer but many theories exist. There is some evidence that the hormone that controls lactation, prolactin, may be secreted more frequently in women with cyclical breast pain. Another theory suggests that women have breast tissue receptors, which are more responsive to hormonal stimulation because of their fatty acid makeup.  Some evidence suggests that reducing dietary saturated fat levels may help treat cyclical breast pain. Reducing caffeine use in the premenstrual time can also be effective for some women. Sometimes stronger hormonal suppressing drugs and diuretics are prescribed but these medications have potentially unwanted side effects and haven’t shown significant ability to reduce breast pain.

Researchers suggest that more studies are necessary to determine the effectiveness of many forms of treatment for breast pain. Most women find relief with one or more therapies after an adequate medical evaluation has been performed. Ask your doctor to come up with an individualized treatment plan that will help alleviate your breast tenderness and all those other nasty symptoms of PMS.