Chest Pain While Running: Causes and Management

Chest pain while running is common, but it can be easily prevented. However, it may be due to a condition that will need to be treated with medical attention.

Chest pain is almost always caused by a cardiovascular condition, and thus taken quite seriously. While pain in this area is associated with the heart, or cardiac system, it may also be from a non-cardiac condition. Chest pain can be caused by anything from inflammation, rib injuries, violent coughing, excessive amounts of stress or anxiety, and even heartburn, just to name a few. If dizziness or chest pain become commonplace during or after your workouts, then you should seek medical attention soon to determine the specific cause of the pain or dizziness.

What Causes Chest Pain When Running?

Any type of chest pain will need to be evaluated by a physician; especially if you are a male who is middle aged as this is the most common timeframe for a heart disease to first be noticed. The most common heart disease is coronary artery disease, which occurs when the coronary arteries narrow and slow the blood supply to the heart. 

1.       Stable Angina

Stable angina refers to any type of pain in the chest, which can occur for a variety of reasons. Most often, this pain occurs when the heart muscle is not receiving a sufficient amount of blood flow, especially if it needs to work harder. The most common symptoms of stable angina are the following:

  • Chest pain that feels tight, pressure, crushing, or squeezing before spreading into a nearby area such as the arm, back, neck, shoulder, or jaw.
  • Chest pain usually occurs when the heart must work harder, usually during physical exercise and it usually lasts 5 minutes or less
  • Increased fatigue, possible shortness of breath or overall weakness, dizziness, flu-like symptoms, and palpitations are less common symptoms of angina as well.

2.       Rib Muscles, or Intercostal Muscles Cramp

These muscles are located between the ribs and when not warmed up properly for a run out in the cold, they may suddenly become tense and cramp. When this happens, it may be felt as a sharp and shooting chest pain when running, which is mistakenly viewed as a heart attack by many.

3.       Breathing in Cold Air

Running out in the cold may not always be the best idea, especially if you already have trouble breathing while running. You may feel chest pain while running out in the cold because your lungs are absorbing cold air and becoming cold themselves, which results in the lungs hurting.

4.       Heartburn

Many people suffer from heartburn after eating certain foods because the acid in their stomach briefly regurgitates into the esophagus. This action may make it feel as though something is burning or stuck in your upper chest. Heartburn is also known to cause chest pain while running because of the shaking caused by running or exercising.

5.       Other Causes

There are a number of breathing conditions that can cause chest pain while running, such as asthma or pneumonia. In addition to these breathing conditions, those who suffer from Texidor’s Twinge (condition that produces a sharp pain in the chest while taking long breaths)may experience brief bouts of unexplained chest pain. Lastly, sudden changes in the weather either leading up to your workout or during it may cause chest pain.


Any chest pain lasting longer than 15 minutes that is either sever or accompanied with difficulty breathing, increased sweating, sudden dizziness, or pain that spreads into the left arm or neck may be a signal that you have just had a heart attack. As such, you should call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number for immediate medical attention.

How to Deal with Chest Pain When Running

Change the Way You Breathe

As a runner, you may notice that the first few minutes either make or break your daily run. This is because your breathing routine is vital to the overall success of providing air to your lungs and to prevent any chest pain. In general, runners breathe in and out through their mouth, which allows you to get a lot of air relatively quickly. However, breathing only through your mouth actually reduces the oxygen in your blood, making it more difficult to breathe and even cause hyperventilation. Hyperventilating can cause damage to vital organs by restricting blood flow, which is why doctors recommend breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. Practicing this may mean you need to count your steps as you run and breathe in through your nose for four steps, and out through your mouth for four steps.

Management and Prevention  

Those diagnosed with angina (chest pain), may find that the following help to either alleviate or control the condition:

  • Work with your doctor to create a proper exercise program to improve your overall cardiovascular fitness.
  • Be cautious with physical activity and avoid anything too strenuous.
  • Maintain a balanced and healthy diet for a proper weight and healthy blood pressure levels.
  • Try to limit alcoholic drinks to two a day for men, or one a day for women.
  • If you already smoke, do your best to quit. If you are not a smoker, avoid any type of smoke or tobacco products, including second hand smoke.
  • Learn proper methods of managing stress.
  • Try to avoid either extremely cold or extremely hot environments.
  • If you have been prescribed any medications for the condition, make sure to take the recommended dose each day.

Hope this article helps you understand better chest pain when running and will help prevent future discomfort.



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