You head for the chiropractor when your back is out of whack or your neck needs a good crack. But when the problem is breast pain, a chiropractor may be the last person you'd think to consult.

Yet that oversight could lead to continued and unnecessary suffering, according to Mikell Suzanne Parsons, DC, founder of the Natural Path Health Center in Fresno, California. She said that she helps several patients each day who have breast pain-though that's rarely the reason why they've come to see her.

Did You Know? Women with Dense Breasts Have the Same Risk for Cancer As Women with Normal Breasts

Recent research shows that dense breasts can make mammograms harder to interpret, but they do not increase risk for premature death.

How are chiropractors equipped to treat this problem? "Chiropractors are detectives. We're trained to look at the body as a whole, to identify why a person has a particular symptom or disease, then dig deeper to correct the problem by restoring balance to the body," she explained.

Of course it's wise to alert your primary-care doctor to any breast symptoms you might have. But once serious problems are ruled out, call your chiropractor if discomfort persists. With just a few questions about symptoms and lifestyle, Dr. Parsons said, she usually can pinpoint the root cause of a woman's breast pain. Here are three common problems she sees and the treatments that bring relief…

Breast Problem #1

Telltale symptoms: Pain is sharp and worsens when you take a deep breath or prod the area...with symptoms arising suddenly (rather than occurring chronically).

Likely cause: Your body is out of alignment in the area where one of the ribs attaches to the sternum, which prevents the lungs from fully expanding as you breathe. What feels like breast pain is actually inflammation of deeper tissues. The misalignment may have occurred when you lifted something heavy, slept in an awkward position or twisted in an unnatural way (for example, by reaching into the back seat while driving).

Solution: Dr. Parsons treats this problem by identifying the specific rib involved and correcting the alignment, either manually or with a handheld, spring-loaded device called an activator that delivers a rapid pulse. In addition, if muscle tissue in the area is affected, she also may do a manual press-and-release treatment called trigger point therapy. Most patients get relief almost immediately.

Breast Problem #2

Telltale symptoms: Pain is localized primarily on the sides of both breasts...with discomfort that is fairly consistent, occurring more often than not...and often is accompanied by constipation.

Likely cause: The real problem arises some inches south of your breasts, in your intestines–because your body is not detoxifying correctly. When toxins are not eliminated through the digestive system, they get reabsorbed and stored in fatty tissue, Dr. Parsons explained. Breasts consist primarily of fatty tissue, so toxins can accumulate there and create inflammation.

Solution: Cut caffeine, food additives and processed foods from your diet. Also, consider talking with a nutritionist to determine whether your diet is lacking in any particular detoxifying nutrients, such as the B vitamins. As you reduce your toxic load and resume daily bowel movements, your breast pain should diminish within a matter of days, Dr. Parsons said.

Breast Problem #3

Telltale symptoms: All-over breast achiness occurs nearly all the time...and often is accompanied by dry skin, especially on the hands and shins.

Likely cause: Your diet is too low in healthful fats, perhaps because you try to avoid fats altogether or because the fats you do consume are the unhealthful ones (such as those found in fried foods and baked goods). Dr. Parsons explained that healthful fats are needed to build healthy, pliable cell walls. When such good dietary fats are lacking, fatty tissue (including in the breasts) can generate inflammation.

Solution: Boost your intake of foods that provide healthful fats, such as olive oil, coconut oil, avocado and fatty fish...and ask your healthcare provider about taking a high-quality fish oil supplement. Breast pain should ease within a few weeks–and as a bonus, your skin will look and feel better, too.

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