Why Do My Lungs Hurt After Running?

Lung pain after jogging can be totally normal, but there are times when you should talk to your doctor about your discomfort.
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New runners often experience the discomfort of burning lungs when they first try to overexert themselves. Running forces you to breathe more rapidly, meaning your lungs work harder to get oxygen throughout your body. They need time to acclimate to this new sensation.


Thankfully, the pain will typically stop within a few minutes after you stop running. However, if you experience pain or burning after each run, it may be because you're breathing through your mouth or you have a medical condition like asthma or acid reflux that requires medical attention.

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Why Your Lungs Hurt After Running

It's natural to have a little breathing discomfort while running — it's supposed to be taxing, after all! Here are a few reasons you might experience running-induced lung discomfort.

1. You're New to Running

You need blood and oxygen pumped all over your body to exercise. Your heart and lungs work overtime to keep you moving, and they both get stronger over time as your fitness improves, according to the American Lung Association (ALA).

If you haven't run much before and your general fitness level is low, you might experience more shortness of breath while running. Stick with it, though, and you'll notice fewer breathing problems after exercise.


2. You're Breathing Through Your Mouth

Breathing through your mouth is actually less efficient at bringing oxygen into your lungs than breathing through your nose, according to Houston Methodist. And when you're short on oxygen, you could notice a painful burning sensation in your lungs.

Breathing through your nose during exercise takes some getting used to, but you may find it alleviates some lung pain from running.


3. It's Cold Out

It's even more common for your lungs to hurt after running in cold weather. That's because cold, dry air irritates your lungs, especially when you're taking in a lot of it quickly while you're huffing and puffing during your run, according to the ALA.

4. You Have Allergies or There's Air Pollution

Running outside in polluted, smoggy air might make it harder or more painful to breathe, according to the ALA. If you have allergies, running outside on high pollen days can do the same.



5. You Have Exercise-Induced Asthma

Exercise-induced asthma, or exercise-induced bronchoconstriction, is a chronic condition caused by inflammation and narrowing of the airways, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). People with EIB will often have trouble breathing or feel chest pain or tightness from running that usually resolves by an hour after stopping any activity.


6. You Have an Underlying Health Condition

Certain treatable conditions can lead to feelings of lung discomfort and respiratory pain, according to the Cleveland Clinic, including different types of inflammatory conditions in the ribs and lungs. Anxiety and acid reflux can also lead to feelings of tightness in the chest during exercise. Rarely, lung pain or shortness of breath could also be a sign of a pulmonary embolism, which requires immediate medical treatment.


How to Stop Burning Lungs After Running

If you have lung pain after running and shortness of breath, your body will naturally start working against you: You'll begin gulping air through your mouth. Practice breathing through your nose and into your belly to slow down your breathing and make your inhales more efficient, per the ALA.

Always check the air quality before exercising outdoors. You can plug in your zip code at AirNow.gov. Depending on the conditions, you might want to exercise inside, at a later time or at a lower intensity, according to the ALA. And if it's cold, consider a face covering that will help warm up the air you inhale.


Anyone who has been diagnosed with asthma should make sure to take their medication as directed by their doctor. A proper warmup may also help you avoid running lung pain, according to the ALA.

When to See a Doctor

If you experience pain regularly after running, make an appointment with your doctor to be certain of the cause of your lung pain after exercising. Although a mild burning sensation in your lungs after running is common, you should never assume the lung pain you're experiencing is normal.


If the burning sensation doesn't go away and you're having any lightheadedness or a change in your heartbeat, or if you have a family history of heart disease or sudden cardiac death, go to the emergency room, per the Cleveland Clinic.

A doctor will do a physical examination to rule out a respiratory infection. They'll also ask you a series of questions regarding your lung pain after running, such as your history with lung pain, the climate you're running in, how quickly the pain disappears once you rest and what other symptoms you experience. Your doctor may have you run on a treadmill and then test your lung function before and after your run to help with a diagnosis, per the Cleveland Clinic.

Your doctor might prescribe a bronchodilator in the form of an inhaler if you have exercise-induced asthma. Albuterol is a common bronchodilator medication prescribed to open the airways and help with symptoms. If you have an inhaler, be sure to carry this with you during your run, according to the AAFA.

If your doctor uncovers a more serious underlying condition, hold off on running until you get the all-clear.