Friday, March 6, 2020

Breast Pain and Fibromyalgia



Ever-present breast pain isn't something that should be ignored.
It's taken me quite a while to even mention it. Partially,
because I've always had it and didn't think it was unusual and partially because, well, it's embarrassing to talk about.

Since developing breasts at 13 years old, they have hurt. I've mostly ignored it, however, until this past month when this pain became a nagging nuisance.

Breast pain is not something I've ever talked about with others except the time I got mastitis when breastfeeding and when I was weaning from breastfeeding.  That pain was fevered, swollen, and excruciating. 

About 10 years ago, I began to have localized, sharp pain in both of my armpits.  This type of pain was new and had me worried.  I brought it up to my OBGYN at the time.  It was time for my annual physical, so she set me up with a mammography appointment with directions to get close to the chest wall and the armpit.

Up On Tippy Toes


As you can imagine, being someone with tender, lumpy breasts makes going to have a mammogram especially daunting.  The technician, friendly but fierce,  took her job seriously. She had me disrobe to my waste (none of this leaving the hospital green kimono over one shoulder for modesty-sake). She asked for me to raise my right arm up onto the cold metal of the machine while she guided what little breast flesh I have onto the even colder bottom plate of the X-ray machine. To do this, I literally had to stand on my tippy-toes. She bragged, "I'm very good at getting as close to the chest wall as possible." With an uncomfortable laugh, I leaned in preparing for the paddle to be lowered, smashing my aching breast and pulling in as much of the skin from my underarm as possible.  This process, with slightly adjusted angles, was done a few more times on either side.

Correctly aligned chaturanga dandasana.

The great news was, my greatest fear was calmed.  The specialist my OBGYN had sent me to explained that I had tight muscles (we both surmised from my frequent and probably ill-aligned chaturanga dandasanas as I was heavily into fast-paced yoga at the time). I was given stretches for this area and sent on my way.

No Change

To this day, the pain has remained, despite the stretching. However, I now didn't' worry about it. My mammograms have been normal, so I just assumed this is how I am. Last year, I was told I had dense breasts and would be getting a more detailed mammogram from now on ( Tomosynthesis which takes more images in rapid slices to create a 3-D image). 


Why Do I have Sore Breasts?

During perimenopause, I began to use the Estrogen patch and take progesterone each night. I did mention my sore, lumpy breast tissue, but this seemed to be a result of hormone replacement.  However, I've been off from the patch for six months and am officially in post-menopause and the sore tissue remains. In addition, my ribs and sternum are now sore to the touch. 

This Monday, I went for a medical massage (I'm doing this every four weeks or so).  Claire did some semi-uncomfortable stretches, massaging the rib area and under my armpit and under my breasts.  She also did a bit of a rolling massage (this involves a bit of pulling up of the skin with thumb and pointer finger and rolling it in a direction). It wasn't pleasant, but it was bearable. She then showed me how to help the lymphatic system drain through gentle self-massage.  

Pain GONE! (For two days)

I was surprised to realize the next day, that I had absolutely no aching in my breasts and less pain in my ribs.  This lasted a couple of days and still is less than last week five days after the massage.  


FMS (Fibromyalgia Syndrome) Connection

And so, I've gone on a research binge on what might be happening. In a study  titled “Can mastalgia be another somatic symptom in fibromyalgia syndrome?” and published in the journal Clinics found that, "...coexistence of mastalgia and FMS is more frequent than previously estimated, suggesting that these two disorders could share some unknown common mechanisms in their etiopathogenesis. Additionally, mastalgia could be a part of central sensitivity syndrome and could be included among the somatic symptoms in the fibromyalgia criteria based on its high prevalence in patients with FMS. Therefore, patients with FMS should also be asked about the presence of mastalgia during routine examinations."  

Within the article explaining the study, the researchers state, "While mastalgia is a sign of an organic breast disease, it also has a possible psychological background that is not fully understood. In addition, mastalgia is known to be strongly associated with high-stress levels."


Shouldn't Be Surprised

I'm finding that the more I learn about FMS, the more I find that the issues I've been dealing with for most of my life are connected. And in some ways, this brings me peace and hope.  I feel that I am working on ONE thing (calming my nervous system through brain retraining) rather than putting out several different fires. 

The massage included in this video is close to the one my medical massage therapist suggested, although she told me to do it in the shower with a washcloth.  I've read using oils like the one suggested here or even coconut or olive oil is good.

Lymphatic Breast Massage

Taking Care of the Girls

Because I am post-menopausal, have dense, lumpy breast tissues with non-cyclic breast pain, I need to take extra care of my breasts. To do this, first, I'm going to talk about it with my doctors more regularly and share what I have learned. I will have the 3-D Mammogram done, yearly and continue to do self-breast exams.  To help with the pain, I will do the lymphatic breast massage, breathwork, and continue to get medical-massage.

Here are a few helpful resources I found as I did my research: 

80% of all women experience some sort of breast pain. However, if you have fibromyalgia, the odds are that you have the non-cyclic breast pain that is present all the time. 

I'd love to hear from others that deal with this and what you have learned. 

Thank you for visiting my blog today. 

I am committing to posting once a week on Fridays.  
However, as you know, my new normal means that sometimes 
I have to listen to my body and am not able to follow through as planned.
Thank you for your understanding.



9 comments:

  1. Thank you for this article. I too have breast pain but my mammograms are all clear. I think it may be fibro for me too as it is worse during a flare.

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    1. Yes, me too. Let me know if you try the lymphatic drainage technique. I think it's helping.

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  2. Thank you so much for this. I have been wanting to write about this from the perspective of endometriosis because I have always had severe non-cyclic breast pain whenever my estrogen is high or I am on medication that increases it. I have never known of the lymphatic drainage technique - I am so excited to give it a go! Thank you!!

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    1. I'm finding some relief it seems. Let me know if you notice a difference.

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  3. Thank you for the video, it has been very helpful. I never associated ongoing breast pain with fibromyalgia. Living with fibromyalgia now for 15 plus years, and for the first time I am experiencing less breast pain with this massage.

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    1. Wow! That's so wonderful to hear. This is why I'm sharing my journey. Fibromyalgia is a slippery thing and has so many facets. I'm finding so many missed connections that I had FMS long before I even knew something was up. Doctors just treat each thing separately rather than looking at ALL the issues.

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  4. Thank you for the article! As someone with fibro, it's interesting to hear about this form of management.

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  5. Very interesting read. I have fibromyalgia and breast pain, and never knew there was a connection. I'm also post-menopausal.

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    1. I was surprised, too! I've come to understand that much of the pain and other issues I've had years and years before my actual diagnosis of Fibromyalgia are linked to it. Wish the research was more known (and more thoroughly done), however.

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Let us have a positive dialogue. Please, keep comments non-judgemental and uplifting.