Symptoms A-Z

Chest Pain That Gets Worse When Breathing or Coughing

Understand your chest pain that gets worse when breathing or coughing symptoms, including 8 causes & common questions.

An image depicting a person suffering from chest pain that gets worse when breathing or coughing symptoms

Chest Pain That Gets Worse When Breathing Or Coughing Symptom Checker

Take a quiz to find out why you're having chest pain that gets worse when breathing or coughing

Contents

  1. 8 Possible Causes
  2. Questions Your Doctor May Ask
  3. Statistics

8 Possible Chest Pain That Gets Worse When Breathing Or Coughing Causes

The list below shows results from the use of our quiz by Buoy users who experienced chest pain that gets worse when breathing or coughing. This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Pleurisy

Pleurisy is an inflammation of the pleura, the protective membranes which surround the lungs and line the inner chest cavity.

The inflammation is most often caused by a viral, bacterial, or fungal infection, such as influenza or pneumonia; by some medications; or by a rib fracture.

Symptoms include sharp, "pleuritic" pain in the chest, back or shoulders that gets worse with deep breathing, sneezing, or coughing; shortness of breath due to shallow breathing in an effort to ease the pain; and sometimes fever and/or cough.

Sudden, intense chest pain during breathing is a medical emergency. Take the patient to the emergency room or call 9-1-1.

Diagnosis is made through patient history; physical examination; and imaging such as x-ray, CT scan, or ultrasound. In some cases, a needle is used to withdraw fluid from the pleura for testing.

Treatment involves addressing the underlying cause, such as prescribing antibiotics for a bacterial infection. Over-the-counter pain relievers can be used, along with supportive care in the form of rest, fluids, and good diet.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: shortness of breath, muscle aches, fever, cough with dry or watery sputum, rib pain that gets worse when breathing, coughing, sneezing, or laughing

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Acute costochondritis (chest wall syndrome)

Acute costochondritis is the inflammation of the flexible cartilage that connects each rib to the breastbone. Costochondritis is caused by excessive coughing or by straining the upper body, as with weightlifting. It is a common occurrence seen in children, teenagers, and adults.

Symptoms include a sudden, sharp, aching pain anywhere in the chest wall, especially near the breastbone where it connects to the ribs. The pain gets worse with deep breathing or with almost any movement.

Treatment involves rest along with over-the-counter, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Injections of corticosteroid medication to ease pain and inflammation are occasionally used.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: rib pain, chest pain that is worse when breathing, chest pain, rib pain when moving, pain when pressing on the chest

Urgency: Phone call or in-person visit

Fluid build-up between lungs and chest wall (pleural space)

The lungs are separated from the rest of the body by two layers of membrane called pleura. In between these two layers, there is a space called the pleural space. If an abnormal amount of fluid accumulates in this space (which could happen as a result of infection), the lungs cannot function as well as they should, causing symptoms such as shortness of breath, cough, and chest pain.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: being severely ill, shortness of breath, fever, rib pain that gets worse when breathing, coughing, sneezing, or laughing, coughing up green or yellow phlegm

Symptoms that always occur with fluid build-up between lungs and chest wall (pleural space): being severely ill

Urgency: Hospital emergency room

Atypical chest pain

Atypical chest pain describes the situation when someone's chest pain is unlikely to be related to heart or lung disease. There are many other possible causes that could explain chest pain, like sore chest wall muscles or psychological factors like stress and anxiety.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: chest pain, shortness of breath

Symptoms that always occur with atypical chest pain: chest pain

Symptoms that never occur with atypical chest pain: fever

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Chest Pain That Gets Worse When Breathing Or Coughing Symptom Checker

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Collapsed lung (pneumothorax)

A pneumothorax occurs when air or gas leaks into the space (called the pleural space), separating the lung from the chest wall. It puts pressure on the lung, causing the lung to collapse.

Symptoms include sudden, sharp chest pain that worsens with deep breathing, shortness of breath, a faster heart rate, fatigue, and bluish skin.

Treatments include methods to remove air from the pleural space, reducing pain associated with breathing, as well as measures to keep the lung from collapsing, which may include surgery.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: rib pain, rib pain on one side, shortness of breath, rib pain that gets worse when breathing, coughing, sneezing, or laughing, chest pain that gets worse when breathing or coughing

Urgency: Hospital emergency room

Pulmonary embolism

An embolus is a blood clot that forms in the bloodstream, breaks loose, and is carried by the blood to become lodged elsewhere in the circulatory system. If this clot (embolus) blocks part of the bloodstream in the lungs (pulmonary system,) this condition is called pulmonary embolism.

It is most often caused by blood clots in the deep veins of the legs, which can form after long periods of inactivity or bedrest.

Other risk factors include smoking, obesity, and female hormone replacement therapy.

Symptoms include sudden difficulty breathing; chest pain; coughing, sometimes with blood; anxiety; lightheadedness; and fast, irregular heartbeat.

Pulmonary embolism is a life-threatening medical emergency, because it causes high blood pressure in the pulmonary arteries and lack of oxygen in the blood. Take the patient to the emergency room or call 9-1-1.

Diagnosis is made through patient history, physical examination, blood tests, and chest x-ray.

Treatment involves anticoagulants, or blood thinners; "clot-busting" medications; and surgery to implant a filter to help prevent clots from traveling through the bloodstream.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: shortness of breath, cough, rib pain that gets worse when breathing, coughing, sneezing, or laughing, fever, wheezing

Urgency: Emergency medical service

Bacterial pneumonia

Bacterial pneumonia is an infection of the lungs caused by one of several different bacteria, often Streptococcus pneumoniae. Pneumonia is often contracted in hospitals or nursing homes.

Symptoms include fatigue, fever, chills, painful and difficult breathing, and cough that brings up mucus. Elderly patients may have low body temperature and confusion.

Pneumonia can be a medical emergency for very young children or those over age 65, as well as anyone with a weakened immune system or a chronic heart or lung condition. Emergency room is only needed for severe cases or for those with immune deficiency.

Diagnosis is made through blood tests and chest x-ray.

With bacterial pneumonia, the treatment is antibiotics. Be sure to finish all the medication, even if you start to feel better. Hospitalization may be necessary for higher-risk cases.

Some types of bacterial pneumonia can be prevented through vaccination. Flu shots help, too, by preventing another illness from taking hold. Keep the immune system healthy through good diet and sleep habits, not smoking, and frequent handwashing.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: fatigue, cough, headache, loss of appetite, shortness of breath

Symptoms that always occur with bacterial pneumonia: cough

Urgency: In-person visit

Chest pain from reduced cardiac blood flow (angina pectoris)

Angina pectoris is chest pain that is felt when heart muscle needs more blood than it is currently getting. This may result from coronary artery disease (CAD). CAD happens when the arteries that supply blood to heart muscle become hardened and narrowed. This is due to the buildup of cholesterol and other material, called plaque, on their inner walls.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: chest pain, chest pain, tight, heavy, squeezing chest pain, moderate chest pain, deep chest pain, behind the breast bone

Symptoms that always occur with chest pain from reduced cardiac blood flow (angina pectoris): chest pain

Symptoms that never occur with chest pain from reduced cardiac blood flow (angina pectoris): productive cough

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Chest Pain That Gets Worse When Breathing Or Coughing

To diagnose this condition, your doctor would likely ask the following questions:

  • Do you notice your heart beating hard, rapidly, or irregularly (also called palpitations)?
  • Have you been feeling more tired than usual, lethargic or fatigued despite sleeping a normal amount?
  • Any fever today or during the last week?
  • Where is your chest pain exactly?

The above questions are also covered by our A.I. Health Assistant.

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions

Take a quiz to find out why you're having chest pain that gets worse when breathing or coughing

Chest Pain That Gets Worse When Breathing Or Coughing Symptom Checker Statistics

People who have experienced chest pain that gets worse when breathing or coughing have also experienced:

  • 13% Rib Pain That Gets Worse When Breathing, Coughing, Sneezing, Or Laughing
  • 12% Rib Pain On One Side
  • 5% Chest Pain

People who have experienced chest pain that gets worse when breathing or coughing were most often matched with:

  • 50% Fluid Build-Up Between Lungs And Chest Wall (Pleural Space)
  • 33% Pleurisy
  • 16% Acute Costochondritis (Chest Wall Syndrome)

People who have experienced chest pain that gets worse when breathing or coughing had symptoms persist for:

  • 49% Less than a day
  • 23% Less than a week
  • 13% Over a month

Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

Chest Pain That Gets Worse When Breathing Or Coughing Symptom Checker

Take a quiz to find out why you're having chest pain that gets worse when breathing or coughing