Chest Pain while Coughing: Overview, Causes, and Treatment

Blog Chest Pain while Coughing: Overview, Causes, and Treatment

Posted on 4th Jan 2024

Chest pain is a symptom that can occur as a result of various underlying conditions. However, you may have experienced this pain more often when coughing, leading you to wonder if it is a cause for concern. While chest pain from coughing may often be attributed to a harmless cause, it is crucial to understand the potential underlying issues that could lead to this discomfort. In this blog post, we will delve into an overview of chest pain and why it occurs while coughing, while exploring its common causes, and discussing effective treatment options.

Why Does Chest Pain Occur While Coughing?

Coughing is a natural reflex that helps clear the airways of irritants and mucus. However, when chest pain accompanies the act of coughing, it can be distressing and alarming. The pain can vary in intensity and may manifest as a sharp, stabbing sensation or a dull ache. Understanding the potential causes of chest pain while coughing is essential for accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Now, let us take a look at the various causes of chest pain when coughing:

Respiratory Infections: Infections in the respiratory system such as Bronchitis and Pneumonia can cause chest pain while coughing. Bronchitis refers to the inflammation of the bronchial tubes that can result in chest pain while coughing. Acute bronchitis, often caused by viral infections, can irritate the airways and lead to discomfort. An infection of the lungs, pneumonia can cause inflammation and pain in the chest, especially during coughing.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD):GERD occurs when stomach acid flows back into the esophagus, causing irritation. This acid reflux can lead to chest pain, which may intensify during coughing.

Muscle Strain:Intense or prolonged coughing episodes can strain the muscles in the chest and abdomen, leading to pain. This is common in individuals with chronic cough conditions.

Costochondritis:Inflammation of the cartilage that connects the ribs to the breastbone can cause chest pain. Coughing may exacerbate the discomfort associated with costochondritis.

Cardiovascular Issues: While less common, chest pain while coughing can be related to cardiovascular problems. Conditions such as angina or aortic dissection may present with chest pain that worsens during coughing.

Pulmonary Embolism: A blood clot in the pulmonary arteries can cause chest pain and difficulty breathing. Coughing may exacerbate these symptoms, indicating a potential pulmonary embolism.

Inflammatory Lung Conditions: Diseases like sarcoidosis or lupus affecting the lungs can lead to inflammation and chest pain during coughing.

While there can be several reasons for chest pain while coughing, it is important to identify the right underlying cause in order to treat it. Let us take a look at the various ways in which the underlying condition could be diagnosed.

What are the Symptoms to look out for?

The severity of the chest pain while coughing may vary, depending on the underlying conditions, and how often it persists. The intensity may range from a dull ache to an unbearable, throbbing pain. Along with the chest pain and coughing, one may notice a few other common symptoms, such as:

  • Muscle pain
  • Low energy
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Excess mucus secretion
  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty breathing

If these symptoms occur or persist along with the chest pain, talk to your healthcare provider immediately.

Diagnosing the Cause of Chest Pain while Coughing

In some cases, it is not possible to diagnose the cause of chest pain with the help of a single test. The doctor might conduct a thorough physical examination and get an understanding of your medical history. Depending on your symptoms, the doctor might suggest one or more tests to determine the cause. These tests may include:

  • Imaging tests such as Chest X-Ray, MRI Scan, or CT Scan
  • Bronchoscopy
  • Pulmonary Function Tests
  • Sputum Tests
  • Complete Blood Count
  • Ultrasound

These tests may be conducted to look for signs of infection, inflammation, injury, or tumors.

Treatment for Chest Pain While Coughing

Addressing Underlying Causes:

Identifying and treating the underlying cause of chest discomfort while coughing is paramount. For respiratory infections, antibiotics or antiviral medications may be prescribed. In the case of GERD, lifestyle modifications and medications to reduce stomach acid may be recommended.

Pain Management:

Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, can help alleviate chest pain. However, it is crucial to consult a healthcare professional before taking any medications, especially if there are pre-existing health conditions.

Cough Suppressants:

If persistent coughing is contributing to chest pain, cough suppressants may be recommended to reduce the frequency and intensity of coughing episodes. As the name itself suggests, cough suppressants work by suppressing the cough reflex, thus providing relief.

Inhalers and Bronchodilators:

For individuals with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), inhalers and bronchodilators can help manage respiratory symptoms and reduce coughing.

Physical Therapy:

In cases where muscle strain or musculoskeletal issues contribute to chest pain, physical therapy may be beneficial. Stretching and strengthening exercises can help alleviate muscle tension and promote healing.

Lifestyle Modifications:

Adopting healthy lifestyle habits, such as maintaining a balanced diet, staying hydrated, and avoiding triggers that exacerbate coughing, can contribute to overall well-being and reduce the likelihood of chest pain.

Emergency Medical Attention:

If chest pain while coughing is severe, persistent, or accompanied by symptoms such as difficulty breathing, dizziness, or radiating pain, seeking immediate medical attention is crucial. These symptoms could indicate a more serious condition, such as a cardiovascular issue, that requires prompt evaluation and intervention.

In conclusion, chest pain while coughing can be a symptom of various underlying conditions, ranging from respiratory infections to cardiovascular issues. It is essential to consult a healthcare professional for a thorough evaluation and accurate diagnosis. Once the cause is identified, appropriate treatment measures can be implemented to alleviate chest pain and address the root of the issue. Timely medical attention, coupled with lifestyle modifications and targeted interventions, can contribute to effective management and improved quality of life for individuals experiencing chest pain while coughing. If you or someone you know is experiencing persistent or severe chest pain, it is crucial to seek medical advice promptly to ensure proper assessment and appropriate care.