Chest Pain After Pullups

Chest pain following pullup exercises can stem from several different causes, some serious and some that should respond to simple care at home. However, it's not always simple to distinguish between serious chest pain, which can indicate trouble with your heart, and less serious chest pain, which may simply indicate a muscle pull or spasm. If you're in doubt about the source of the chest pain you get after pullups, you should contact your physician immediately.

Chest pain that occurs after pullups can stem from several conditions. (Image: Ibrakovic/iStock/Getty Images)

Strained Muscle

The chest pain you feel after doing pullups could be related to a muscle strain, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. If your chest muscle seems painful when you press in one particular spot, muscle strain likely has caused that pain. To treat your muscle strain, lay off the pullups for a few days to allow your chest muscle to heal. In addition, you can treat the pain with ice or heat, along with an over-the-counter pain killer such as acetaminophen.


Two different conditions, costochondritis and Tietze syndrome, can cause chest pain after pullups, according to Columbia University. Costochondritis involves inflammation in the cartilage that connects your rib cage to your sternum. It causes a dull ache, along with sharp pains that can occur with sudden movements or even a minor shift in position. Tietze syndrome involves swelling in the same area. You can treat these conditions yourself by slowing down your exercise routine for a few days to allow the inflammation to subside. Over-the-counter pain relievers can alleviate the discomfort.

Other Causes

Other potential causes of chest pain include gastroesophageal reflux disease, esophageal spasms, asthma, pinched nerves and gallbladder disease, according to Columbia University. Unless you've experienced the exact same pain before and know what it feels like, it can be difficult or impossible to distinguish between any of these conditions, including muscle strain and joint inflammation.

Heart Disease

Although it may be more likely that your chest pain following pullups represents an injury or a strain, it's also possible that you're having a heart attack or angina, a form of chest pain that indicates heart disease, according to Harvard Medical Center. In fact, it's not unusual for someone who hasn't exercised in a long time to experience the first twinges of angina -- or even a heart attack -- during strenuous exercise. Physicians use a series of medical tests to distinguish between the various types of chest pain and to determine if a person needs immediate medical care for a heart problem. If you're not sure why you're having chest pain following pullups -- or if you suspect heart disease might be causing your symptoms -- seek immediate medical attention.

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