The Myofascial Release (MFR) approach encourages us to become aware and in touch with our whole body; but how many of us are aware of our breasts? From our teenage years we are encouraged to perform monthly breast self-exams, but most of us don’t, including me. Many of you may be surprised, but over the years I have reframed my belief on breast self-exams and have helped many women become more comfortable with adding breast awareness into their regular routine.
Since 2014 I have been involved with our annual Girls Night Out: Gaining an Understanding of Your Breasts educational seminar held in September. Each year I ask for a show of hands from the women performing regular breast self-exams. The number is always less than 20% of the woman in attendance. The top two reasons are always; I don’t want to find anything wrong and I don’t know what I’m feeling/looking for. My reason is different as I don’t perform an actual exam, but I regularly treat my breasts using Myofascial Release and am very familiar with how my breasts look and feel.
I encourage all women to get to know the look and feel of their own breasts. Breasts come in many different shapes and sizes. They can be dense, lumpy, large or small. Even nipples come in different shapes and sizes and can be inverted. When we regularly take the time to become familiar with our own breasts then we are able to get a good understanding and awareness of what our normal is and promptly report any changes to our doctor.
How do we become familiar with our breasts?
• If you still have your menstrual cycle make sure to wait until a few days after your cycle ends to assure your breasts aren’t swollen and tender.
• Sit or stand shirtless and braless in front of your mirror with your arms at your sides and take a few deep breaths. Let yourself know that it is OK to look at yourself. You are beautiful just as you are.
• Take note of the shape and symmetry of your breasts (they will usually be different left to right). Do you see any areas that pucker or dimple?
• What do your nipples look like, are they inverted?
• Inspect how your breasts look with your arms down at your sides and also raised overhead with your palms pressed together.
• Lastly, lift your breasts to notice how they look along the bottom.
• Next, feel your breasts. It is OK to touch them slowly and just observe what you feel. Most women like to do this while they are in the shower or when lying down on their bed. Take your time and don’t rush.
• Use the palms of your hands to move your breasts in different directions (up, down, side to side, diagonal). How do they move? They should glide easily in all directions. If not you may have myofascial restrictions limiting their mobility.
• Next use the pads of your fingers to sweep in different directions from your collarbone to your nipple and into your armpit, as if you are sweeping along the face of a clock. Sweep along at different depths (light, medium, and firm) before moving to the next area. What do you feel? Some of you may feel more lumpy tissue as these will typically be cystic breasts. Sweep along all areas of the breast.
• Lastly, gently squeeze each nipple. Are they tender? Tenderness can be myofascial restrictions. Do you notice any discharge?
Slowing down to take the time to just look and feel our breasts can be done on a weekly basis. Again, we aren’t searching for anything wrong, but just continuing to be aware of our own breasts. If we notice any changes then we can decide if it is something that needs to be brought up to our doctor. If you notice the following you want to make an appointment with your doctor:
• A hard lump or knot in the breast or underarm
• Thickening or prominent fullness that is different from surrounding tissue
• Dimples, puckers, bulges or ridges on the skin
• A change in the nipple including pain, redness, recent inversion, or a non-milk discharge
• Redness, warmth, swelling or pain
• Itching, scales, sores or rashes
Myofascial restrictions can cause changes in our breast tissue, including discomfort and loss of mobility. We have successfully helped women eliminate pain and discomfort, improve mobility within their chest and breasts, and eliminate painful cysts. Over the years we have also helped woman recover post-surgery from mastectomies, lumpectomies, breast reconstruction, and breast reductions. Many of these women struggle with range of motion in both the chest/thorax region and upper extremities, as well as scar related concerns. Myofascial Release has helped so many woman over the years including Amy. She had a breast scare and the use of Myofascial Release eliminated a pea sized lump from her breast. Read her story by clicking here.
Your therapists at Natural Balance Therapy are passionate about helping women with breast related concerns. Kristin provides Lymphatic Drainage to the breast region, Amy and Linda provide Myofascial Release and can instruct you in self myofascial care for your breasts. If you are having any breast concerns please don’t hesitate to reach out and talk to us. We are here to help and want to help you feel comfortable with your own breasts. Please, take time to get to know your breasts.