Pain under the right breast is actually a common symptom that many people experience. This may cause a lot of worry as people usually connect it with heart conditions. However, pain under right breast can arise due to other problems as there are a lot of internal organs that could be found in that area.
The pain in the said area could be connected with the heart, but it may also be due to problems in the muscles, lung, gallbladder, liver, or kidney. Other causes may be due to effects of hormonal imbalances, stress, acid reflux, or other factors. But if the pain radiates to the other parts of the chest and is severe and sudden, accompanied by extremely high or low blood pressure, you have to seek medical help right away.
Anatomy of the thorax
In order to understand more about how pain under the right breast could possibly occur, it is important to review the anatomy of the human thorax.
The term "thorax" is derived from the Greek word that means "breastplate" or "corslet." It refers to the area running from the neck and the abdomen. It includes the thoracic wall and the thoracic cavity. The organs that can be found in the area are the heart, thymus gland, lungs, as well as certain internal structures and muscles. Internal structures include the trachea, diaphragm, esophagus, and part of the sternum called the xiphoid process. Muscles in the thorax include the neck, trapezius muscles, and the major and minor pectoral muscles. There are also arteries and veins contained in the thorax, such as the aorta, superior and inferior vena cava, and the pulmonary artery. The thorax is supported and protected by the rib cage, shoulder girdle, and the spine. Externally, the thorax is covered by skin and there are nipples present.
The shape of the chest does not exactly correspond to the thoracic skeleton that encompasses the lungs and the heart. The shoulder girdle actually dictates the shoulder breadth. The thorax bones are called as the "thoracic skeleton", and it is part of the axial skeleton. It is composed of the sternum and the ribs. The ribs are numbered from 1-12, in ascending order. Ribs 11 and 12 are called "floating ribs" as they are not attached to the cartilage that is also attached to the sternum, like Ribs 1-7. Ribs 8-10 are called "false ribs" because their costal cartilage attaches with the costal cartilage of the above rib.
The chest also has certain anatomical landmarks. In males, the nipple is found in front of the fourth rib or just a bit below. Vertically, the male nipple lies a bit outside an imaginary line drawn downwards from the middle of the clavicle. In females, the nipple is not found constantly in one place. A bit below the nipple the great pectoral muscle's lower limit can be found, and it runs upward and outward going to the axilla. In females, the breast obscures this, as it extends vertically from the 2nd to the 6th rib. Laterally, it can be found from the sternum's edge up to the mid-axillary line. In females, the nipple is surrounded by a disc that is less pigmented, known as the areola. The areola is usually half an inch or more in diameter. Normally, the apex of the heart is found in the 5th left intercostal space, which is about 3 ½ inches away from the midline.
What could cause pain under the right breast?
In America, breast cancer is quite common. This is why a lot of women become alarmed when they experience breast pain. A good thing to note, however, is that pain or tenderness under the right breast is not always a sure sign of breast cancer.
Pregnancy can cause pain under the right breast because the woman's body is going through a lot of physical changes to accommodate the growing baby. The pain may be triggered by the ever-changing positioning of the fetus in the womb, or the changing structure of the hips. Acid reflux and heartburn are also common during pregnancy, which can further trigger the onset of pain under right breast. As the baby continues to grow, the diaphragm is pushed upwards, which then puts more pressure on the rib cage.
If the pain affects more of the chest compared to the breast itself, it may due to other conditions. This includes a gallbladder infection or indigestion. Indigestion can cause a burning sensation to develop on the right side of your chest because of acid refluxes. When the gallbladder is inflamed and infected, it can also cause a sharp pain to form in the stomach area that can also radiate to the right side of the chest.
However, there are more severe causes of pain under the right breast that need medical attention right away. These are the symptoms that you should watch out for:
- Clear or bloody discharge from the nipples
- Feeling a new lump in the breast (with onset of pain)
- Signs and symptoms of an infected breast (pus, localized redness, plus fever)
- Unexplained and persistent pain under right breast that may come and go
It is best to seek medical attention when you have pain so that you can determine the underlying cause as early as possible. Early diagnosis is best for prevention of more serious health issues.
|Common Causes of Breast Pain||Reason|
This is often due to the skin stretching as the breast grows.
More often than not, this happens because of fluctuating hormones in the body.
Days after giving birth
The most common reason for this is fluctuating hormones as well. However, breast pain days after giving birth can also happen due to "engorgement" which is caused by the body producing milk for the newborn.
Quite like the others, pain during menopause is often caused by the spike in hormone levels in the body.
Often referred to as "growing pains", this happens because your body is preparing for lactation.
Some Probable Causes
There are certain conditions that can lead to the onset of pain under the right breast or the chest. Here are some of the probable causes and their explanations:
A number of organs are protected by the rib cage in the chest area. The rib cage itself is made of up the sternum, ribs, and cartilages. Any injury sustained by any of these structures, such as a fracture from a blow or an accident that involves the chest, can lead to pain, tenderness, and bruising in the affected area. The pain may be aggravated when sneezing, coughing, or even when taking deep breaths. It is important to get the needed medical attention when having injuries such as this. Leaving the injury may cause further complications that could affect the organs later on.
Costochondritis refers to the inflammation of the cartilage that is attached to the rib. This is usually due to infection, trauma, and strain injury on the joint, or violent coughing. This commonly causes chest pain. The pain becomes worse when doing physical activities or even when coughing or sneezing. However, this condition is not very serious and may be relieved through some rest and over-the-counter pain relievers.
When the lining of the lung or chest cavity (pleura) becomes inflamed due to pneumonia, respiratory infections, trauma, or exposure to substances that are toxic like asbestos, it is called pleurisy. Also called as pleuritis, it is characterized by chest pain that becomes even worse when coughing, deep breathing, or moving. Other symptoms include shortness of breath, rapid breathing, and coughing.
The gallbladder can be found under the right breast, which is why problems that arise from the gallbladder will also cause severe pain in the said area. Gallstones or cholelithiasis, is one such problem. They form when salts, cholesterol, and pigments turn into crystals or small, hard stones. These stones then block the bile that is produced when food is being digested. Biliary colic is often known as gallstone or gallbladder attack. The inflammation may cause the patient to vomit, have a high fever, or suffer from nausea. The pain may last for a number of hours or even days.
The pancreas are located behind the stomach, and it is quite large. To be more precise, it is located on the left part of the upper abdomen. The inflammation of the said organ is known as pancreatitis, and this could cause a chronic pain that is felt or transmitted to another body part. This can be a probable cause of any sharp pain under the right breast. Pancreatitis may also cause other symptoms to arise, such as nausea and vomiting, bloating, and fever. The symptoms are aggravated when eating foods that have a high fat content.
Renal calculi, or kidney stones, are solid deposits that form when minerals and acid salts become crystals in the urine. Generally, smaller kidney stones can go out of the body through the urine with no problem. However, bigger kidney stones that get stuck in the urethra or kidney can cause severe pain. Flank pain is the most common symptom. It can be felt on the side where the affected kidney is found. The pain may radiate going to the rib cage. This is why it may also be a probable cause of pain under the right breast. Other symptoms that may accompany kidney stones include frequent and cloudy urine, fever, nausea and vomiting, plus a burning sensation when the person urinates.
IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
IBS is considered as one of the least dangerous reasons why people have pain under the right breast. It may be a bit strange as to why the pain in the said area is connected with the syndrome, but it is actually normal. IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome, is a disorder of the digestive system wherein the activity or mobility of the bowel is increased.
IBS can occur in people due to different reasons. Certain food products can cause constipation while there are others that can also cause diarrhea. Stress is considered as one of the most common suspects of this syndrome. However, among women, they may also suffer from IBS when they have their period.
Hiatal hernia is also another cause for pain under the right breast, but it is less common. This is a condition wherein a part of the stomach protrudes or herniates through an opening found in the diaphragm. The diaphragm then opens up into the cavity of the chest. Sometimes, a part of the esophagus also herniates through the opening. A hiatal hernia can cause heartburn, chest pain, bloating after eating, and shortness of breath. Immediate treatment is needed in order to avoid any serious complications in the future.
Build-up of too much gas
Too much gas may be trapped in your digestive system if you overeat. Many people actually do not realize this. When you overeat, you are actually putting stress on your digestive system. Because of too much food, it will not function properly. The food that you eat is not digested properly. When this happens the system creates more gas and stomach acids. This will cause problems to arise. Stomach gas may be trapped in different parts of the digestive system, but it will still cause pain under the right rib cage.
When people get anxiety attacks, they can have rapid heartbeats or palpitations, then followed by uncontrollable shaking, difficulty of breathing, and chest pain. This can be incredibly frightening, especially to those who had them for the first time. A panic attack also causes the muscles and nerves found in the chest to tighten, which can then lead to pain under the right breast.
Blockages of Food
The food that you eat passes through the esophagus. When you don't chew properly or when you swallow food by accident or rapidly, the food becomes stuck in the esophagus. This may cause pain and tenderness just below the right breast. Immediate medical help is needed in order to take out the blockage, as this will compromise your breathing.
Fibrocystic breast disease is a common non-cancerous conditions wherein the breasts form lumps and are painful. It is not really a disease as it normally affects women who are from 30 to 50 years old. The breast pain radiates all over the whole thorax. The main cause of the condition is still unidentified, but doctors are saying that it may be due to hormonal changes. The menstrual cycle of a woman is there due to hormone fluctuations, especially the rise of progesterone and estrogen. These hormones can cause changes in the breasts, making them sore and lumpy.
Too much Stress
You may actually feel surprised as to how stress and anxiety could bring about a plethora of symptoms. Lack of sleep, too much stress, tiredness, and strong emotions could all cause pain under the right breast. Stress makes the digestive system go berserk, increases the blood pressure, and tenses the muscles. Apart from the pain under the right breast, other symptoms such as heart palpitations, dizziness, nausea, abdominal pain, sweating, and muscle tension may also be present.
According to published information by the Harvard Medical School, researchers were able to find that even mild stress can already disrupt the digestive system, thus increasing pain in the abdominal area. If you feel anxious or stressed a lot, you need to find ways to effectively relax.
This is a lesser known cause of sharp pain under the right breast. It is easy to diagnose because it comes along with other symptoms. Shingles is a viral infection that causes painful rashes as well as pain on the right or left side of the torso. It is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. It is actually true that people only get chickenpox once, but once you have caught it, the virus stays dormant in the body. Sometimes it activates and causes shingles.
The first thing that a person notices when he has shingles is a feeling of discomfort and pain. After a few days, a red rash may usually appear. The affected area is extremely sensitive when touched, and it can also be burning, numb, or itchy. In the next few days, the area becomes inflamed, and the rashes turn into fluid-filled blisters. These form crusts after a week. Other accompanying symptoms may include headache, fatigue, and fever. If you think that you have shingles, ask immediate help from your doctor as this viral infection is easily spread from person to person, especially those who haven't had chickenpox yet.
It is a fortunate thing that shingles can be fully cured as it usually affects only the elderly or small children, whose immune systems are weakened.
Another cause of pain under the right breast in fecal impaction. This condition is connected with the digestive system, and could be more dangerous than other conditions listed here.
Fecal impaction is usually the sign that says something is wrong with your colon. Those who have fecal impaction have difficulty passing their stools. A bad thing is that when the stools overstay in the bowel, a lot of health conditions could arise. Dangerous bacteria may start breeding and irritate the bowel tissues. This may even lead to serious illnesses like cancer.
Mastitis is known as breast tissue infection and breastfeeding mothers are at risk. It causes the breast to be red and swollen. If this is untreated, boils and blisters may form, which eventually swell up and cause pain all throughout the thoracic area. This usually develops when the bacteria from the baby’s mouth enters the nipple while breastfeeding.
This is a non-cancerous breast tumor that forms inside a milk duct. An intraductal papilloma usually forms like a large lump that can be found near the nipple. There are times that it may form many small lumps, too, but away from the nipple. The tumor is made up of fibrous tissues and blood vessels. This is common among women aged 35-55. There are no known risk factors for developing this condition. However, during the onset, there may be a sharp pain. Should a woman find any lumps, it is recommended that she get in touch with her doctor. The usual way of treating intraductal papilloma is through surgery in order to take out the affected duct and the tumor.
This is a contagious liver disease and is caused by the Hepatitis C Virus. People who contract this disease suffer from the following symptoms: poor appetite, tiredness, fever, and abdominal pains (upper right portion of the abdomen, or just a bit below the diaphragm). This is why it may be misconstrued as pain under the right breast. The liver is covered by a protective capsule. On that capsule are a lot of pain receptors. When a person’s liver becomes inflamed and enlarged, it presses on that protective capsule, thus triggering the pain receptors. The result is a dull pain on the upper right part of the abdomen, just a bit below the ribs. This is a serious condition and should be treated right away. If not, it may later on lead to liver failure or even liver cancer.
Medical professionals recommend patients to take the necessary precautions to prevent getting infected with the virus, and this includes refraining from sharing needles, scissors, toothbrushes, nail clippers, etc.
This could probably be one of the most common ailments in the world. Almost everyone may have experienced this at one point in their lives. Heartburn causes a sharp pain under the right breast after a meal, especially when the stomach is very full. Some experience this when they lie down after eating. Other symptoms include a burning feeling in the throat or chest. There may also be a sour taste inside the mouth. The pain can radiate to the chest, shoulders, arms, and even the neck. Cold sweats and shortness of breath may also be present. The pain is aggravated with lying down or bending over.
Heartburn is actually not life-threatening, but it can be crippling or troublesome.
What Could Cause Pain When Breathing?
If the pain is triggered when breathing, a lung issue may be the probable cause. Deep breathing causes pleuritic chest pain. Respiratory issues such as pneumonia or other lung infections are examples of conditions that cause pain under the right breast when breathing. Other causes of pain include chest trauma or injury, rheumatoid arthritis, or lupus. If the pain is caused by the presence of a blood clot, immediate medical help is needed as it can turn into a life-threatening situation.
Remedies for Pain Under the Right Breast
There are different causes that could lead to pain under the right breast. The treatment for the pain depends on that underlying cause. Here are some of the specific treatments for treating pain under right breast:
First, the doctor will identify what type of gallbladder disease that the patient is suffering from. The doctor will take a thorough medical history, suggest some laboratory exams (such as an x-ray or an ultrasound, and a urine test), and do an abdominal assessment. To treat the inflammation, pain, and muscle spasms, the doctor will prescribe some medicines. If the pain becomes recurrent or a bit more serious, surgery is another option. If the patient opts out of surgery, the doctor may prescribe medications that can dissolve gallstones. An example of this is the drug Ursodiol.
The diet also plays a big role in managing and treating gallbladder diseases. However, there is no single model diet for treating it. Generally, a low-fat and low-sugar diet helps to minimize the symptoms. Eating foods that are rich in fiber, such as oats, beans, and vegetables is a good way to start.
Treatment for Changes in the Hormones
If it's fibrocystic disease, you cannot do much about it since it typically not a disease. To rule out any cancer risks, regular physical breast exams and mammograms are important. Limiting or avoiding caffeine is also suggested, especially when it comes to managing the pain due to fibrocystic breast. Some women discovered that chocolate worsens the pain. Because of this, people have to pay more attention to what they eat. They have to check which foods or drinks cause more pain. A good rule of thumb to follow is to lower salt consumption, as it also helps to reduce any swelling. A high-fiber, low-fat diet will help lower the risk of developing cancer.
Treatment for Fractures and Bruises
Broken or bruised ribs can heal on their own from anywhere between 3 to 6 weeks. So, there is really not a lot that people can do about it except to control the pain. Painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs could be prescribed, such as naproxen, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen. Paracetamol is usually given for mild pain. If the pain cannot be handled by paracetamol, patients are usually given a stronger painkiller or anti-inflammatory drug. Most of these stronger painkillers contain codeine, which can handle moderate to severe pain.
The doctor may suggest doing deep breathing exercises in order to prevent pneumonia and other respiratory problems from starting. It is important not to wrap the ribs when doing the breathing exercises as this will not let the lungs to expand fully. If the lungs are unable to expand fully, this could increase one's risk of developing pneumonia. Strenuous activities should also be avoided while recuperating.
Oral medications are given to relieve pain around the nerves, as well as inflammation. If the pain is severe, the doctor usually injects corticosteroids, which act as anti-inflammatory agents. Corticosteroids also act as a local anesthetic that helps to relieve short-term pain.
Doctors will also push their patients to do some exercises to combat intercostal neuritis. Patients have to expand their chest area and stretch the intercostal muscles. This relieves any pressure present in the blood vessels and surrounding nerves. These exercises are best done with the help and supervision of a medical professional.
If you suspect that you have pancreatitis, seek medical help right away so that you can be evaluated properly. The doctor will also ask you to have some laboratory tests done to confirm if you do have pancreatitis or to rule it out. If you do have pancreatitis, you may be admitted in a hospital. Doctors may order strong painkillers to be injected if needed to alleviate the pain. It is also important to increase the fluid intake because pancreatitis can cause dehydration.
Treatment for Infections
Pain under the right breast may be caused by infections, so doctors will prescribe antibiotics to get rid of the bacteria. These drugs are very effective in clearing up the said infections. Sometimes, doctors may also advise the use of probiotics.
Aside from medical treatments, there are also some natural remedies for sharp pain under the right breast. These are some alternatives to treat the pain:
For fast relief from pain, an ice pack can be used. The cold can numb the affected area and reduce the pain or swelling. A simple trick is to put some ice cubes in a resealable bag, wrap it in a washcloth, and apply it to the tender area. It can be applied for 10 minutes, and it may be repeated for a few times a day until the pain is alleviated. A warm compress may be used alternatively. Alternating the temperatures between warm and cold can help to reduce tenderness and swelling. Remember that ice should not be directly applied onto the breast.
Evening Primrose Oil
Evening Primrose Oil is a common favorite pain treatment among women suffering from PMS, endometriosis, breast pain, and menopausal symptoms. It has Gamolenic Acid (GLA), which is a fatty acid that helps the body adjust or respond to hormonal changes. This helps to ease pain and tenderness. To apply, just put the oil on the affected area and massage for 15 minutes. Another way is to take this oil in capsule form. Evening Primrose Oil can come in 240 to 550 mg capsules. You can take it every day for a period of 3 months. However, it is best to consult your doctor first. If you are trying to get pregnant or if you have epilepsy, this may not be the treatment for you. There is still insufficient evidence to see if Evening Primrose Oil is safe for pregnant women.
Castor oil is another alternative treatment for pain under the right breast. It is full of Ricinoleic Acid which acts as an anti-inflammatory and analgesic, making it perfect for pain treatment. It is also said to help in boosting blood circulation. Nutrients can reach the cells better, and the waste products and the inflammatory factors in the body can be eliminated faster and more efficient. To use, mix about a tablespoon of castor oil with 2 tablespoons of a carrier oil, such as olive oil. Mix well and massage onto the affected area. You can use this every day. For pregnant women, this may not be a good choice as it can induce early labor.
Dandelion is actually a natural diuretic which helps to flush out the toxins in the body. It also has potassium to help remove extra fluids and prevent retention of water. This mechanism then helps to minimize pain under the breast. To use this, take a teaspoon of dried dandelion root and leave to steep in a cup of warm water for about 15 minutes. Once steeping is done, strain it and add some honey. Drink the concoction and continue doing this for about a week, three times a day. This is generally okay to be used by pregnant women, and many experts also suggest that they also take this to reduce swelling and water retention.
Treatments for Heartburn
Heartburn can cause pain under the right breast, so if you do suffer from this, you can check these treatments to help alleviate the pain:
- Wear Loose Clothing: Heartburn arises when the stomach contents go up into the esophagus, and the stomach acids can eat away at the tissues. There are cases wherein tight clothing compresses the stomach, which then pushes the gastric acid up. So, loosen your belt to avoid getting heartburn.
- Stand Straight: The posture can actually contribute to heartburn. Lying down or sitting aggravates heartburn. If you are already standing up, do so with a straighter back. Having an upright posture helps to lessen the pressure on the LES (lower esophageal sphincter). This is the ring of muscle that acts to stop acid from entering the esophagus.
- Elevate the upper part of the body: When you are lying down, you are making the acid reflux worse. Before sleeping, adjust the height of the head part of the bed. However, the Mayo Clinic says that elevating the head alone is not enough; you should elevate the entire upper body (from the waist up). You can use a wedge pillow to keep your upper body elevated.
- Take ginger: Ginger has long been a folk remedy for heartburn. Grated or diced ginger can be used in soups, stir-fry recipes, and other foods. You can also try making ginger tea by steeping ginger tea bags or raw/dried ginger root in boiling water. Ginger ale, however, must be avoided as it is a carbonated drink. Carbonated drinks commonly trigger heartburn.
- Take licorice: Licorice root is also a folk remedy that was used even during centuries ago to treat heartburn. It is said to help in increasing the mucus found in the esophageal lining, which can protect the esophagus from any damage due to the corrosive stomach acid. However, eating a lot of licorice can lower potassium levels, raise blood pressure, and can even interfere with some medications. It is important to talk to your general practitioner before taking licorice.
- Mix baking soda and water: Baking soda works wonders when it comes to heartburn. It has the capacity to neutralize the stomach acid. Take a glass of water and mix in a teaspoon of baking soda. Drink the mixture slowly. You can do this to calm down heartburn episodes.
- Sip some apple cider vinegar: Another folk remedy is sipping apple cider vinegar. Diluting some apple cider vinegar with water can alleviate heartburn in some people. This can be done after eating.
- Chew some gum to dilute the acid: Chewing gum doesn't alleviate heartburn, but it can increase saliva production. By doing so, it can reduce the acidity in the esophagus. Gum that has bicarbonate is said to be more effective.
- Take over-the-counter medicine: There are many medications for heartburn that you can buy over-the-counter (OTC). There are three major classes of heartburn medicine: proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), antacids, and H2 blockers. H2 blockers and PPIs reduce the amount of acid that the stomach produces, which can minimize symptoms of heartburn. Antacids help to neutralize the stomach acid.
- Stay away from smoking: Smoking is altogether a bad habit, and even more so for those who suffer from heartburn. The nicotine found in tobacco relaxes the LES, which allows the acid to leak into the esophagus.
- Limit or avoid intake of citrus fruits and drinks: 72% out of 400 GERD patients participated in a study, and they reported that grapefruit or orange juice worsened their heartburn symptoms. The acidity of the citrus fruits isn't the only factor that contributes to this. Orange juice has neutral pH, but it can also aggravate symptoms. Citrus fruits don't make the LES weak, so it is likely that something in them irritate the esophageal lining. It may not cause heartburn, but it can make the symptoms worse.
- Don't overeat: The LES naturally opens when you burp, swallow, or vomit. It stays closed when these things aren't happening. However, if you suffer from acid reflux, this muscle does not function well or is weak. A lot of acid reflux symptoms arise after a meal. Bigger meals, therefore, may worsen the symptoms further. To minimize acid reflux, it is important to avoid eating big meals.
- Lose weight if you are overweight: A number of observational studies show that people who have extra pounds in their abdominal area have a higher risk of suffering from GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) or heartburn. This is because the diaphragm cannot provide the needed support to the LES as it gets pushed upward. Hiatal hernia occurs. This is why weight loss plays a role in minimizing acid reflux.
- Avoid sugary, fatty, and spicy food: Too much of something is always bad. Eating too much sugar and fats increases stomach acid, which could worsen heartburn. Spicy food acts an irritant, which could also aggravate acid reflux.
- Do meditation and relaxation exercises: Stress and anxiety are also causes of pain under the right breast, which is why it is important to find ways to de-stress. Relaxing and meditating can help to reduce the stress and anxiety that people feel. You can always take a few minutes to compose yourself and to let go of any worries that you have before working again.
Pain under right breast is a common symptom, and it does not necessarily mean that there is an underlying serious medical ailment. Breast cancer and heart attack are the greatest concerns among people who experience pain under the right breast. However, by learning what is the exact cause of the pain, people will not be afraid.
The cause dictates the severity and the duration of the pain. In many cases, home treatments can be done to alleviate the pain, as well as the inflammation and swelling. It is best to seek medical help or have a check-up to rule out any more serious health ailments.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.