Chest pain during exercise is very common at any age, whether you are older or younger. Normally it is due to the fact that we have exercised our body more than it should and it is usually a musculoskeletal pain, at least in most cases.

However, if the pain is more intense or is accompanied by other symptoms such as palpitations, and in any case lasts more than 72 hours, it is advisable to see a doctor since it could be another more serious problem. You have to know how to differentiate the pain caused by physical activity from that which occurs when there is a heart problem. In this article we show you the types of pain you can feel during exercise and answer the question of “why does my chest hurt when exercising?“.

Causes of chest pain when exercising

When a person performs exercise or high intensity activities for a time, an energy creation process called the lactic acid system is generated in our body.

The lactic acid appears following processing glycogen is the energy produced. When you are active, lactic acid accumulates in the muscles that become acidic and, when they cannot bear the level of acidity, it passes into the blood that carries it to the liver to be processed and stored to create energy. This energy is necessary for muscle contraction.

Formerly it was thought that lactic acid was what created the pain, however this is not the case since, as we see, it accumulates in the liver and not in the muscles. However, lactic acid does increase the ability to feel sore muscles and a person who does little exercise will tolerate low levels of lactic acid and may feel more pain.

In the case of chest pain, the muscles in the area get small tears when the body is exercised and therefore can hurt. It can also be caused by muscle spasms. The pain will go away when the tissues recover.

Keep in mind that chest pain does not always mean heart damage. There are many organs and attached tissues in the area that could cause chest pain such as the lungs, esophagus, tendons, muscles, and nerves in the area or ribs.

Then, in the following sections, we detail what are the different types of chest pain during exercise.

Idiopathic chest pain

On many occasions, not only when exercising, idiopathic pain occurs, that is, without an established cause. This pain is usually sharp but short-lived and without other symptoms. Although no cause has been established, other conditions should be ruled out. However, during exercise this pain is more difficult to appear, since it will usually be associated with muscle pain.

Musculoskeletal pain

The musculoskeletal pain is the most common to the exercise. It can appear due to a chest injury or because you are doing an exercise wrong and there is some non-obvious injury. When we exercise in the beginning it is likely that we do some exercises wrong and this can cause damage to skeletal structures of the body and cause pain.

It is common for it to appear during exercise or walking when running. Believe it or not, good sneakers or changing the terrain could save you a lot of pain during exercise. Or for example lifting lower weights, or going to a trainer to help you do the exercises correctly.

Delayed-onset muscle pain(DOMS) or stiffness

Usually the pain usually appears during exercise and disappears when you have finished it. However, there is a type of pain that appears later, it can appear up to 24 or 48 hours later, although it will disappear after 72 hours. If not, it is advisable to go to the doctor. It is what we commonly known as shoelaces. Symptoms are muscle pain and tenderness, loss of strength, and even stiffness. Some people report cramps in the area.

Stiffness is very common after exercising and can also occur in the chest area. It is not clear what causes DOMS but it has been determined that it could be eccentric exercise.

Symptoms of a heart attack

In order not to be alarmed and to know if it is a heart attack or not, we must know what happens when it occurs. In this case, the pain must be accompanied by other symptoms. However, it is not very common to do exercise since they usually occur during moments of rest.

During a heart attack, it is normal to feel short of breath or even nausea or vomit. The chest pain usually as a feeling of pressure in it and in many cases can also hurt his left arm. However, a heart attack can also occur without chest pain.

Injuries and pain in the chest

As we have seen before, in the chest area there are more organs and tissues apart from the heart. So, the pain during or after exercise may be due to a chest injury, for example in a muscle or tendon between the ribs or an inflammation in the sternum and ribs area.

In any case, if the pain does not stop with rest or if each time, we make a physical effort the discomfort appears, we must go to the doctor as soon as possible.

Asthma or lung problems

Asthma or a lung problem can cause chest pain. In fact, it is very common for people with asthma to suffer from these ailments when playing sports. In addition to pain, other symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and pressure in the chest will appear with asthma.

Thus, exercise could worsen this condition if we do not prepare well before for it. In the case of asthma, it is advisable to use some type of bronchodilator for a while before exercising or doing sports, thus improving lung capacity and avoiding asthma attacks.

Angina pectoris

An angina occurs when the heart receives insufficient blood and is often common after making activity or exercise more normal, because the heart has to work harder. If the chest pain is very intense and also lasts over time, go immediately to the doctor for a diagnosis and you can start the necessary treatment as soon as possible.

Prevent chest pain during exercise

It’s very important to stretch your chest muscles well before doing any exercise, even just running. You also need to stretch after doing any type of exercise to avoid stiffness and possible injury.

If you are a sedentary person, it is best to start with gentle exercises and not fatigue or press yourself too much, since not only will you not get results in a day but, as you can see, you can cause a serious injury in the area of ​​your chest.


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