7 Reasons Why You May Be Experiencing Chest Pain When Stretching

The most convenient technique you can apply to save yourself from having body aches and feeling cramped is stretching. Your workout routines should contain easy stretches designed to reduce muscle stiffness. But what if you’re already having chest pain when you stretch? This puts forward the question- why do you have chest pain when stretching?

The potential reasons like pulled muscle, inflammation, lung infection or contact injury that may have caused chest pain when stretching. You feel a mild pull on the chest muscles when you stretch, speculating it is normal although it isn’t. Now if you ask me whether you should stop stretching, I would say yes because the pain can only amplify deliberately.  

Not satisfied with this brief statement? Here you’ll find descriptions that might resolve your query on why you have chest pain when you stretch. So, buckle up! 

If you have chest pain when you stretch and experience a squeezing pressure that is accompanied by vomiting, cough with mucus or blood, dizziness, sweating etc. consider it a medical emergency.

What Causes the Chest Pain While Somebody’s Stretching?

Suppose you are in a gym for your workout, and you start doing stretches. As you bend backwards, you feel a gruelling pain in your chest and you think if it’s a heart attack! Don’t get troubled. Not all chest pain that occurs when you stretch is a cardiac complication, probably the problem is elsewhere.

chest-pain-when-stretching

When you stretch in any direction or engage yourself in physical movements that require a substantial amount of energy and bodily strength, you may feel sore. The reasons for this pain are not always presumably benign. Some of these clinical conditions mandate surgical interventions, while others can be cured by medications alone. 

Costochondritis

Such an unusual medical term, no? This is a seemingly harmless condition caused by inflammation of the cartilage in the rib cage that connects to the sternum in the costosternal junction. Usually, it results from trauma or injury, physical activities or sometimes infection. 

It can result in mild chest pain generally in the upper and middle ribs making the chest feel tender. The pain may aggravate after coughing, deep breaths or voluntary movements that require extensive movement of the chest, like stretching backwards. 

costochondritis

Some researchers suggest that athletes are at a higher risk of developing costochondritis. However, similar symptoms may indicate a more critical condition like a heart attack which is a medical emergency. Therefore, get yourself checked. 

Physical Injury

Now this has got to be the commonest cause for most of your queries related to pain. It’s not necessary that you will develop pain immediately after getting hit or being injured, you can perceive the pain days after the initial impact.

This usually yields from a sports injury associated with broken ribs or sternum, performing repetitive movements, heavy-lifting, poor posture, road accidents and so on.  Although uncommon, you might have chest pain from an injury you had in the past and an unhealed bone fracture.  

Pulled Muscle in Chest

An injury that involves an overstretched or torn muscle is usually referred to as pulled muscle or muscle strain. Pectoral and intercostal muscles are the prominent chest muscles which are prone to strain. The intercostal muscles are the group of chest muscles that comprises three distinct muscles: external, internal and innermost intercostal muscles running between the ribs and assist in the process of respiration.

The pectoral muscles cover the rib cage providing an attachment to the upper arm and shoulder. Muscle strains can range from sharp to dull kinds of pain. 

This commonly appears from overstretching, inadequate warmup before exercise, twisting of the torso beyond its normal limit, overuse of the muscles etc. A strained chest muscle is usually insignificant and heals within a short time, however, it is uncomfortable. Remember to avoid overstretching backwards since it causes damage to the thoracic spine. 

Angina Pectoris

Angina is a condition that occurs due to obstruction of the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscles. It is a symptom of cardiac diseases that develop when there is restricted blood flow to your heart. This type of condition may be found in various categories of people: old age, family history, tobacco consumption,  stress, a person with diabetes, hypertension, obesity etc.

angina-pectoris

Be extra cautious if you are above 40 years and already been diagnosed with the condition because this is a critical health constraint.  

Some common symptoms of angina pectoris are discomfort, dizziness, shortness of breath, squeezing pain, vomiting etc. You need to remember that not all chest pain is angina pectoris. You may also experience pain in the shoulders, arms, jaw and back. 

Pneumonia

Pneumonia is a type of respiratory disease in which the lung tissues are inflamed. The tiny air-filled pockets (alveoli) get occupied with pus and fluid which makes breathing more difficult.  The commonest cause of pneumonia is a bacterial infection (mainly Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae etc) Certain viruses like RSV are also responsible for this disease to develop. 

The clinical features of pneumonia are persistent cough, rapid heartbeat, difficult breathing, sweating, with or without fever. Wheezing is more common in viral infections. Children whose immune systems are compromised are at a higher risk of developing pneumonia. 

Some environmental factors are indoor air pollution caused by cooking and heating fuels, overcrowded living space, malnutrition, poverty etc. There is nothing to be concerned about, pneumonia can be remediable.  

Pulmonary Embolism (PE)

The term embolism refers to the blockage of a blood vessel by the dislodgement of a blood clot from one site that travels to another part of the body. Pulmonary embolism is the blockage in one of the pulmonary arteries in your lungs. It may be life-threatening if left untreated. 

The typical signs or symptoms of PE include shortness of breath, coughing out blood, chest pain, palpitation with sweating, hypertension, lightheadedness, swelling and pain in the infected leg (caused due to deep vein thrombosis). 

pulmonary-embolism

Now you must point out that PE is a critical condition that often leads to sudden cardiac death, shock, pulmonary infarction, abnormal and spontaneous bleeding. 

Pleurisy

Pleuritis or pleurisy is a condition in which the pleura (the double-layered thin serous membrane overlying the lungs that separate it from the chest wall) becomes inflamed. Between these layers, the space that is filled with fluid called the pleural space primarily enables our lungs to expand and contract while breathing under a normal physiological state.

But if these layers are inflamed then the tissues swell up. As they rub against one another, it produces a pain that feels similar to that of any cardiac abnormality.

Some of the reasons why this layer gets inflamed are due to microbial infection (bacterial, viral or fungal), any autoimmune disease (like Rheumatoid Arthritis), rib fracture, or tuberculosis. This pain worsens when you sneeze and cough, also when you take deep breaths. If you have pleurisy, you will observe coughing, occasional fever and shortness of breath. 

I guess you have an insight now. Additional rare but possible causes are acid reflux, heart attack, coronary artery disease etc. The chances of having a heart attack are rather slim because you won’t be able to sustain the pain for long and have other distinct symptoms. 

When to See a Doctor?

If you have chest pain when you stretch and experience a squeezing pressure that is accompanied by vomiting, cough with mucus or blood, dizziness, sweating etc consider it a medical emergency. Visit the hospital immediately for further investigation and seek proper treatment. 

Your doctor will examine you and suggest some investigations like blood tests, ECG, chest X-ray, other imaging tests like a CT scan, MRI etc

How to Manage Chest Pain?

The ways to manage chest pain or minimise the symptoms depend on the degree of strain and severity of the disease. Here are some beneficial treatment options that can facilitate quick recovery

  • Complete Rest: If you want to heal fast, you need to take complete rest and avoid doing physical activities. 
  • Cold Compression: You may apply ice packs or cloths soaked in cold water onto the affected area which can ease your pain. 
  • Medications: You can take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Ibuprofen which can relieve the pain and inflammation. For persistent pain, your doctor might prescribe stronger analgesics and muscle relaxants. If you have a cough, taking cough suppressant medicines can minimise further strain on the intercostal muscles. If you specifically have angina pectoris, the doctor might prescribe a Nitrate group of drugs, calcium channel blockers and antiplatelet medicines.
  • Elevation: You need to maintain a posture that keeps your head elevated with support on your back. While sleeping, use extra pillows to keep your chest elevated. 
  • Lifestyle Modification: If your chest pain is due to any cardiac abnormality like angina, you need to make some definite lifestyle changes. Avoid things that might trigger angina. Eat healthy, avoid excessive fatty food in your diet and drink plenty of water. 

With these measures, your symptoms are likely to subside within a few weeks. If you have a chronic muscle strain, physiotherapy and specific expert-mediated exercises can rehabilitate the affected muscles. In severe cases, you might need to repair the torn muscles through surgery. 

Avoid weightlifting and strenuous routines that might exert pressure on your chest. Abstain from stretching until you recover. 

If you are doing yoga, follow the preparatory techniques first. While playing any field games or adventurous sports, make sure to wear protective gear. You don’t wanna be injured and come home (or hospital) with a bad pain instead of a good memory, right?

FAQs

How to tell if chest pain is muscular?

Answer: The usual symptom of chest pain is a painful burning sensation behind the sternum, occasionally radiating to the shoulder, neck or back. This usually indicates that you have a cardiac problem. However, differentiating heart-related chest pain and other forms of chest pain can be tricky. Your chest pain can be muscular if the pain is associated with trouble while swallowing, pain getting worse when you breathe deeply or cough, sour taste in your mouth etc.

Why does the middle of my chest hurt when I stretch? 

Answer: The possible conditions might be costochondritis or a pulled muscle in the intercostal muscles of the chest. Usually when you stretch backwards or forwards, the pressure exerted on the chest muscles may lead to strain due to overstretching. 

Should I discontinue my workout sessions if I experience chest pain when stretching?

Answer: Yes, you need to discontinue your workouts, including your warm-up sessions. You must avoid any exhausting manual activity until you heal properly. 

The Endnote

The probable causes of chest pain when stretching are mostly treatable, so don’t worry much. If you ever fall into such an unwelcoming situation, you must take recommendations from a medical expert because you don’t know what precisely inflicted the chest pain. 

Maintain a healthy lifestyle and don’t forget to take precautionary measures so that you feel less sore. Stay tuned with us for more! Adios!

Maisha Zarnaz

Maisha Zarnaz

I am Maisha, currently studying for MBBS in Armed Forces Medical College, Dhaka. The advancements in medical science enthrals me a lot, hence I like to read medical blogs and articles and help people with whatever knowledge I have been able to acquire on healthy eating, lifestyle and skin care. I love watching TV series or baking when I'm free and music has always been my passion.

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