- If you’re feeling pain in your breast area, you’ve most likely either strained your muscles or are experiencing capsular contracture
- Strained muscles are not a big deal; capsular contracture is and needs to be addressed immediately
- Breast implants do not have a ‘lifespan’, but after 10 years complications become more common
What Causes Breast Implant Pain?
There are two major reasons why breast implants can cause pain in the chest area years after the procedure:
Best Case Scenario: You’ve strained your muscles
While both silicone and saline breast implants are relatively light in terms of weight, after the breast augmentation procedure you’re effectively carrying additional weight on your chest. This can cause strain on some of your muscles in the chest area.
More importantly, breast implants take up additional space in your chest area, which might cause practical musculoskeletal complications. If that’s the case, the pain will most likely be concentrated towards the nipple.
There are several ways this can happen:
- Pectoral exercises in the gym. Putting physical stress on your chest muscles can cause natural muscle soreness, which is often misjudged as implant-induced pain. In some cases, the implant may have added to the pain through a strain of sensory nerves. Either way, an exercise-related soreness is not dangerous (unless taken to extremes), and you should continue to work out. The pain should fade away as your body adjusts to the exercise. We encourage our breast augmentation patients to actively exercise, including training your chest muscles.
What to do if you’re experiencing exercise-related pain:
1. Stretch your muscles before and after the workout
2. Warm up for at least 10 minutes before the workout
3. Don’t increase your workout intensity until the pain fades
4. Take a warm bath
5. Take a muscle relaxant
- Lots of coughing. One of the most common reasons for an unexpected breast implant pain years after the procedure is a cough-inducing illness. Coughing is actually one of the main reasons why smoking is prohibited weeks before and after breast augmentation. Here’s an explanation of how coughing causes chest pain for breast augmentation patients:
- Costochondritis is the inflammation of the joint of the ribs that connects the cartilage to the bone. Whenever we breathe (make our lungs to expand and collapse), there is a slight mechanical collision in the rib junction. When we’re ill and cough a lot, this movement occurs frequently. And, with breast implants in place, there’s even less space in the chest area, thus the mechanical friction becomes times more intense. This friction causes the inflammation, which, in turn, causes the pain.
What to do if you’re experiencing cough-related pain:
1. Focus on healing and reducing the cough
2. Consult your doctor on analgesic medication
3. Take anti-inflammatory medication
4. Try to stay put until the cough goes away (stay in bed or seated), any additional movement only adds onto the inflammation
5. Take a muscle relaxant
- New Type of Physical Activity. This is similar to the exercise-related breast implant pain. Any physical activity that your body is not used to might cause a strain of your chest muscles and irritation of your sensory nerves. Think of it this way: your body would react to the activity either way; the implant only raises the sensitivity of your nerves in the chest area slightly. The activities that could cause the pain include:
- Outdoor activities. Have you recently taken up hiking, mountain cycling or yoga? This might have put unexpected stress on your chest muscles, which causes the pain.
- Playing with your children/pets. Have you recently become a mother, or have gotten a puppy as a birthday present? Congratulations! However, all of that newfound physical activity can put an unexpected strain on your chest muscles.
- Hobbies and household chores. Household chores and newfound hobbies such as gardening can become a reason for your breast implant pain. These activities need not be extremely physically demanding; if they’re repetitive enough, they can cause irritation in your chest area.
What to do if you’re experiencing activity-related pain:
1. Identify any new, repetitive physical activity that you’ve taken up recently
2. Try to limit that particular activity for a while until the pain goes away
3. If you can’t do that, think about which parts of the activity could strain your chest muscles, and how could you avoid that movement
Bottom line: physical soreness in the chest area can occur due to physical activity and mechanical friction. The pain can be made worse if you have had a breast augmentation procedure. The pain is not dangerous, and the treatment should not change due to the implants.
Worst Case Scenario: Your body is rejecting the implant (capsular contracture)
If none of the above descriptions match your case, then the reason you’re having soreness could be your body’s natural protective reaction towards the foreign object (the implant), otherwise known as capsular contracture.
Our bodies are intelligent: when a foreign object is put inside your body (like a breast implant), your immune system forms a protective layer of organic tissue around the foreign object to prevent it from moving, growing, or damage your body in any other way.
During capsular contracture, the organic tissue around the implant (the “capsule”) shrinks (“contracts”), causing pain and discomfort. The contracture may also cause your implant to move and flip.
What Causes Capsular Contracture in Breast Implants?
The defensive reaction could be caused by several reasons:
- An infection. Usually, the infections that cause capsular contracture “sneak in” during the initial surgery. If the operating surgeon does not follow all necessary hygiene and safety procedures, this may be the cause of the contracture.
- A seroma. Seromas are pockets of fluid that form within your body after an injury (or a surgical procedure.) The fluid is of pale yellow, transparent color and contains no blood cells. Seromas typically dissolve after a few weeks, but sometimes the condition persists, potentially causing a defensive reaction from your body. The condition is especially common after breast surgeries (15-18% incidence rate.)
- A hematoma. A hematoma in your breast is a blood-filled swelling that forms right under the skin and looks like a bruising. Hematomas usually form after trauma or surgery. If untreated, hematomas can cause inflammation and fever, which can also contribute to the contracture of your implant.
Saline vs silicone implants: saline implants are considered less likely to cause capsular contractures over their silicone counterparts, although the evidence is not strong enough to form a definitive claim.
How to Know If You Have Capsular Contracture? (Symptoms)
Capsular contractures can form quickly, but usually, it’s a very gradual process. Most women simply don’t notice the slight, everyday changes in their breasts until they really stop to think about it.
Besides the pain, there are several highly noticeable symptoms of capsular contracture:
- Hardened breast(s). This is the main symptom of capsular contracture and will be present in 100% of the cases. If you feel like your breasts are more firm and hard than usually, it’s a clear sign you might be experiencing capsular contracture.
- Breasts are higher up. Due to the nature of the contracture, the tightening of the protective capsule often causes the implant to move up your chest. If it looks like your breasts are higher up than usual (significantly higher), do not take chances and consult with your surgeon.
- Breasts look distorted or ball-shaped. The tightening of the protective scar tissue around the implant may cause the implant to deform. Take a close look at your breasts and look for any irregularities in the form.
- Breasts look smaller. Capsular contracture, by definition, will “squeeze” the implants inside your breasts, effectively making them look smaller. The pressure may also be enough to rupture the implant so that the liquid inside is poured out and absorbed by your body (do not worry, neither salt water inside saline implants nor the silicone gel are dangerous.)
The so-called Baker scale also helps determine how severe the contracture is:
- Grade I. The breast is soft and looks normal, the capsule is flexible.
- Grade II. The breast still looks normal, but is a little stiffened.
- Grade III. The breast looks distorted, ball-shaped and higher up than usual, it feels much stiffer than usual.
- Grade IV. Same as Grade III but the breast is even more stiff and the patient starts feeling pain.
What to Do If You Have Capsular Contracture?
If the symptoms above describe what you’re going through, we highly recommend visiting your board-certified plastic surgeon for a closer examination. If he/she is unavailable, please feel free to contact one of our practices and we’ll help you out.
If untreated, the contracture is likely to remain and keep causing you pain and discomfort. There are no known major health issues that a prolonged capsular contracture can cause.
Once in the doctor’s office:
- Your breasts’ MRI images will be reviewed to evaluate the contracture
- A possible repair procedure will be offered, depending on the state you’re in
There are things you can do yourself to help reduce the contracture. Massage, ultrasound capsular contraction treatment (ASPEN) and muscle-relaxing medication can all help loosen the capsule.
Can a Ruptured Implant Cause Pain?
In brief, no.
Saline breast implants contain salt water inside of them. In the case where the outer layer of the implant is damaged, the salt water is simply absorbed by your body.
The same goes for silicone implants. The silicone gel inside of the implants is also not considered dangerous to human bodies.
It is important to add that breast implants very rarely “burst”. Unless you experience a serious trauma in your chest area, the rupture you may be experiencing is usually microscopic. Therefore, the fluid inside of your implant leaks extremely slowly, drop by drop.
How to know if your implant is ruptured?
As implant rupture causes no pain or discomfort, the only way to see whether your implant is broken (without a surgeon’s examination) is to visually notice that one of your breasts is smaller than the other.
Can you rupture 20+ year old breast implants during a mammogram?
Some of our patients feel concerned about rupturing their silicone or saline implants before getting a mammogram.
The truth is—if a mammogram causes your implant to rupture, they were probably on the verge of rupturing themselves.
Unfortunately, most breast implants that are 20+ years old rupture eventually. The rupture may be “silent”, which means that the silicone gel or the salt water of your saline implants leaked into a scar pocket inside of your breast, not causing any problems or altering the way your breasts look.
To determine whether your implants have already ruptured, please refer to the sections above.
If one of your implants ruptures, is it possible to ‘drain’ the other one?
A ruptured implant may cause asymmetry in your breasts. If implant replacement is a distant option, then the other implant may be drained to achieve an acceptable look.
The procedure itself is simple and can be performed right in the exam room. You will be given local anaesthesia, a needle will pierce the implant, and some of the fluid inside the implant will be removed.
When Do Implants Need to Be Replaced, Anyway?
It is a common myth that breast implants have a “lifespan” of 10 years. There are patients who successfully live well over 20 years without ever experiencing any complications. Unless there is a problem with your implants, they don’t need to be replaced.
According to a recent FDA report, only about 20% of all breast augmentation patients need to go through a repair surgery within the first 10 years after the procedure.
There are several factors that can cause your implants to “wear out” sooner than usual:
- If you’re an athlete or exercise frequently
- If you went through motherhood with your implants
- If you frequently sunbathe (sun exposure and temperature may affect the implants)
With that information in mind, there is no “valid until date” for your breast implants. You should only consider going for another surgery if you’re unsatisfied with how your breasts look or are experiencing a complication.
Painful or uncomfortable implants can indicate a number of issues that require a breast implant revision, including capsular contracture, damaged lymph nodes, a developing seroma, pinched nerves or poor implant placement. If you have silicone implants, pain may be a sign your implant has ruptured or is leaking.Why do my breast implants hurt after 12 years? ›
After 12 years the only thing that could be related to the implants would be capsular scar tissue. If the implants are soft and the shape of the breasts unchanged, then this would be unlikely. Sometimes after certain exercises the pectoralis muscle can be stretched and cause discomfort in the chest.What to do if your breast implant hurts? ›
Your incision sites may be sore or painful after the procedure. While breast implant surgery is minimally invasive, the doctor still needs to make an incision to get the implant into your body. Over-the-counter painkillers can provide relief, but you may receive a prescription medication to help with your recovery.Why do my breast implants hurt after 20 years? ›
Answer: Pain in breast 20 years after saline breast augmentation. Twenty years may be the time when scarring around the implant becomes symptomatic with pain and tightness, called capsular contracture. It may be time to address a revision to the breast implants.Should I remove my breast implants after 10 years? ›
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons recommends that people with breast implants have them removed or replaced every 10 to 15 years. However, your plastic surgeon may not recommend that you have them removed if you haven't had any complications.Why does my implant hurt randomly? ›
Pain Near The Affected Implant
Pain and discomfort likely indicates infection below the dental implant, which may be causing inflammation around the site. If your implant is causing you oral pain, call or come in right away to have the implant site assessed by an expert.
Some of the most common complications are fibrous capsule contracture, implant rupture, silicone migration and neurologic problems . Breast implants may cause inflammation of the surrounding tissue, which can result in different symptoms.What problems can old breast implants cause? ›
There is a link between old breast implants and a cancer called breast implant-associated large cell lymphoma, or BIA-ALCL. BIA-ALCL develops in the scar tissue between the breasts and the implants. The longer the breast implants are in, the higher the risk of BIA-ALCL development.Why do my breast implants hurt after 5 years? ›
Answer: Persistent pain after Breast Augmentation is unusual
Having said that, one cause may be capsular contracture -- which is when excessive scar tissue builds up around the implant. This typically requires surgery to excise the scar tissue and to replace with a fresh implant.
If you overexert yourself, usually in the first year, you might experience soreness in the chest because the muscle has been strained, kind of like a pulled muscle. If you overexert your pectoralis muscle at any point after the implants are placed, you can develop a pain in the chest from that.
Phantom breast pain can happen straight after surgery or sometimes up to a year later. Because the pain is caused by damage to the nerves at the time of surgery, the most effective types of pain relief are those used to treat nerve pain, such as antidepressants or anti-epileptic drugs.How do I know when my breast implants need replacing? ›
- Ruptured implant.
- Deflated implant.
- Asymmetry between the breasts.
- Firmness in the implant.
- Breast tenderness.
- Implant sitting too high or too low.
- Abnormal implant shape.
- Pain, discomfort, or long-lasting loss of sensation.
Late development of this condition is more common after about 10 to 15 years. Depending on the type of implants you have, late development could indicate the implant has begun to break down or has been damaged in some way.What happens if you leave breast implants in too long? ›
They can rupture or leak, and saline implants may deflate. Capsular contracture may also occur, which is shrinkage of natural scar tissue that your body produces around any implanted medical device.Do old breast implants cause pain? ›
Complications the FDA has warned may arise from breast implants include capsular contracture (scar tissue that forms around the implant), breast pain, changes in nipple/breast sensation, rupture, and in some cases, lymphoma (cancer of the immune system).Will insurance pay for breast implant removal? ›
If your implants were put in after a mastectomy and your doctor believes that removing your implants is “medically necessary,” then your health insurance is legally obligated to cover your breast implant removal under the Women's Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998 (WHCRA).Why is everyone removing their breast implants? ›
What Are the Reasons for Breast Implant Removal? Women may choose to have their breast implants removed for implant complications, changes in aesthetic preference, or medical conditions like breast implant illness (BII) or breast implant-associated anaplastic large-cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL).How much does it cost to have breast implants removed and a lift? ›
For that reason, many patients choose to combine a removal procedure with fat transfer breast augmentation (average cost: $9,275), while others opt for a breast lift (average cost: $8,000).What does capsular contracture pain feel like? ›
Grade 4: Like grade three capsular contracture, grade four capsular contracture causes the breasts to become hard and misshapen. Patients with grade four capsular contracture also experience breast soreness; their breasts will often be tender and painful to the touch.What kind of implants cause breast implant illness? ›
The researchers found that the women with silicone gel-filled breast implants were significantly more likely to be diagnosed with autoimmune or rheumatic disorders, such as Sjögren syndrome, systemic sclerosis, and sarcoidosis, compared with women without breast implants of a similar age and socioeconomic status.
Late onset infections occur several months to years after implant and are rare and usually resulting from secondary bacteremia due to infection at another site [3, 4]. The most common isolated organisms from breast implant infection are S. aureus and coagulase-negative staphylococci.Can your body reject breast implants years later? ›
If you're worried that your immune system could react to the implant and reject it, this won't happen. It's vital to know if you consider breast augmentation that modern implants are approved by the FDA and safe. This means there will never be a rejection or immune system reaction when the implants are put in the body.How do you know if your breast implant is damaged? ›
Signs that your silicone implant has ruptured can include changes in breast shape and size, and increasing pain, firmness, and swelling over a period of weeks. Rupture can also cause capsular contracture. Silicone implant rupture that doesn't cause any noticeable symptoms is known as “silent rupture.”Why does my breast hurt when I press it? ›
Breast pain can be due to many possible causes. Most likely breast pain is from hormonal fluctuations from menstruation, pregnancy, puberty, menopause, and breastfeeding. Breast pain can also be associated with fibrocystic breast disease, but it is a very unusual symptom of breast cancer.What does a breast implant contracture feel like? ›
As mentioned earlier, the most obvious sign of a capsular contracture is a tight-feeling breast. This can occur in one breast or both, and can happen soon following the procedure or 10 years after the surgery. Universally, plastic surgeons use a grading scale to determine the condition of the implant.What does a pulled muscle in breast feel like? ›
You may feel a sharp, shooting pain at the time of injury. Tenderness can linger for a few days up to several weeks after trauma to the breast. See your doctor if the pain doesn't improve or you notice any of these signs: Severe swelling.Can surgery cause pain years later? ›
Chronic pain that develops after an operation is often known as 'chronic or persistent post-surgical pain'. Knowing when pain becomes chronic after surgery is especially difficult because many people have had their surgery to treat a painful condition, such as a painful hernia or a long-standing back problem.Do breast implants hurt after years? ›
Capsular Contracture Overview
Capsular contracture may distort the breast and make it hard and even painful. It's the most common complication from breast augmentation, but it only affects about 7% of patients. Capsular contracture can happen anywhere from a few months to years after surgery.
- Breasts that seem to sit high on the chest.
- Misshapen or unnatural looking breasts.
- Breasts that feel firm and tight.
- A round, ball-like shape of the breasts.
- Pain or discomfort, especially when lying on the breasts.
Answer: Breast implant replacement
Dear Heather,In general, breast implant replacement surgery is less painful than the original augmentation. This is of course dependent on whether or not internal work needs to be done, such as resetting the breast fold or removing the capsule.
The cost of breast exchange surgery on average in the US may range between $8,000 and $15,000, all inclusive. Such wide variation in costs will occur due to various factors as discussed above. The primary breast augmentation procedure is usually an elective surgery for aesthetic purposes.What breast implants don't need replacing? ›
As I mentioned earlier, breast implants don't have to be replaced unless they rupture or develop a capsular contracture. If they haven't ruptured and feel soft, you don't need to replace them regardless of how long they have been in.How do you relieve capsular contracture pain? ›
The only effective treatment for capsular contracture is currently capsulotomy or capsulectomy with implant removal or a change in the plane of insertion.Can capsular contracture happen after 20 years? ›
Capsular contracture can occur just a few months after the placement of an implant, but equally it may occur later, even after 20 or 30 years. Once capsular contracture becomes uncomfortable for the patient, she may wish to consider a revision. In most cases, either a capsulotomy or a capsulectomy is performed.Can you live with capsular contracture? ›
In less severe cases of capsular contracture, the patient will be able to live with the scar tissue without any discomfort or changes in their appearance. They will simply need to monitor their breast implant for further indications of progressing scar tissue.Why does my breast hurt in one spot? ›
Non-cyclical causes include things like diet and lifestyle, such as smoking, having larger breasts, or wearing poorly fitted bras. Ductal ectasia, when the ducts of the breast dilate, may also lead to breast pain on one side.Can breast implants cause problems years later? ›
More than 100 symptoms have been associated with breast implant illness, including headaches, fatigue, and gastrointestinal problems. Symptoms can occur with any type of breast implants and can start immediately after implantation or years later.What are the early signs of capsular contracture? ›
As the condition worsens, you may notice more obvious symptoms, including:
- Breast pain.
- Round or ball-shaped breast.
- High-riding breast.
- Misshapen breast.
Zingers are the term used to describe the shooting, burning, sharp, intermittent sensations that women experience after a breast augmentation. This nerve hypersensitivity feels almost like a mini electric shock. Zingers only last a second or two but for women who aren't expecting them it can be quite scary.What happens to breast implants in old age? ›
The biggest risk associated with older implants is rupturing. Over time, the implants can become weakened and become more prone to rupturing or leaking. Luckily, today's implants are engineered to be as safe as possible in the event of a rupture or leak.
With a silicone implant rupture, the highly cohesive silicone almost always stays within the capsule. This may cause tightening of the scar capsule which is known as capsular contracture. Typical symptoms include pain, malposition of the implant, firmness of the breast, and a change in breast shape.How do you know if your body is rejecting an implant? ›
Some signs of allergic reactions include loss of taste, swelling around the gums, and a tingling sensation. Sudden allergic reactions are a sign of dental implant failure because they indicate that your body is rejecting the implant.Where do you feel pain with capsular contracture? ›
Grade 4: Like grade three capsular contracture, grade four capsular contracture causes the breasts to become hard and misshapen. Patients with grade four capsular contracture also experience breast soreness; their breasts will often be tender and painful to the touch.How do you stop capsular contracture pain? ›
Answer: Capsular contracture pain
Pain caused by severe or Grade IV capsular contracture is only effectively treated with surgery for removal or the capsule and implant. Motrin, Tylenol may be of some help, but surgery to remove the implant and capsule should be curative.