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Front and Middle Chest Pain When Running

by
author image Jessica Lietz
Jessica Lietz has been writing about health-related topics since 2009. She has several years of experience in genetics research, survey design, analysis and epidemiology, working on both infectious and chronic diseases. Lietz holds a Master of Public Health in epidemiology from The Ohio State University.
Front and Middle Chest Pain When Running
Chest pain while running often requires medical evaluation. Photo Credit BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images

Runners might expect to feel soreness in their legs or abdominal muscles after a run. However, some runners might experience chest pain while running, which isn't a typical effect of going on a run. While most cases of chest pain when running aren't an emergency, any pain that is severe, persistent or accompanied by other symptoms requires urgent medical care.

Features

Pain in the front and middle of the chest while running might come on slowly and feel mildly uncomfortable or suddenly and feel intensely painful. Runners who also smoke, have diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol may have an increased risk of developing chest pain while running, and men have a greater risk than women, explains the Physician’s Desk Reference website. Chest pain after running might last for just a moment or two, or for more than 15 minutes, which could indicate a serious medical condition.

Causes

Pain in the chest while running could result from problems with any of the organs or muscles in the upper body. Cardiac conditions such as angina cause pain when the heart must exert considerable effort, such as while running. Similarly, respiratory conditions such as asthma, pneumonia, pleurisy, pneumothorax and pulmonary embolism can cause pain in the front and middle of the chest during vigorous exercise due to the body’s increased respiratory rate while running. Digestive problems such as heartburn and inflammatory digestive disorders can also cause chest pain during exercise, especially after eating.

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Warning

If you have chest pain after running that persists for more than 15 minutes, is severe or is accompanied by additional symptoms including shortness of breath, sweating, dizziness, pain that spreads into the left arm, jaw or neck, you might have experienced a heart attack. Anyone who develops these symptoms should immediately call 9-1-1 or another emergency number.

Treatments

Doctors usually prescribe medications such as bronchodilators to treat chest pain caused by asthma attacks, and acid reducers to treat chest pain resulting from reflux. People who experience chest pain after running as a result of angina should take prescription medications to treat arterial plaque, along with aspirin and heparin to prevent blood clots in the heart, advises the Physician’s Desk Reference website. Doctors might need to perform surgery to remove blockages in the vessels of the heart in cases of angina or heart attack, and surgery is also often needed to treat chest pain resulting from pneumothorax and pulmonary embolism.

Prevention

People with asthma might consider running in climate-controlled environments to avoid asthma attack triggers. Avoiding running after eating a large meal can also help prevent front and middle chest pain in those with gastroesophageal reflux. If only vigorous exercise initiates the chest pain, consider jogging rather than running, or other moderate activities such as swimming, biking or fast-paced walking. The National Library of Medicine website advises to live a healthy lifestyle, including avoiding or quitting smoking and exercising for 30 minutes most or all days of the week to help avoid medical conditions that cause chest pain.

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