There is no doubt that you need to exercise for optimal health. However, it is possible to exercise too much. If you exercise a lot and notice pain above your left breast, stop exercising and check in with your doctor.
When to See a Doctor
If exercise is a regular part of your lifestyle, you are probably used to muscle soreness, achy joints and the occasional pain from a minor injury. Mild aches and soreness are common. But if you experience a sharp pain, particularly in or near your chest area, you should talk to your doctor.
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The Cleveland Clinic says that you should never try to "push through" chest-related pain and makes the following recommendations about whether you should see your doctor or seek emergency help:
- If you have pain in your chest that goes away quickly, you should make an appointment to see your doctor, even if you are a younger athlete. Your doctor can review any other symptoms you may be experiencing and, if necessary, run some tests to look for underlying health issues.
- However, if there is no obvious cause for the pain, the pain does not go away quickly, you are lightheaded or you have a family history of cardiovascular disease, you should seek emergency treatment. An emergency room team can help determine what the cause of your pain is and provide treatment as needed.
Chest Pain From Angina
Angina is one possible cause of chest pain above the left breast. This condition may occur when not enough blood flows to your heart. Angina can occur during exercise and will often start to feel better once you stop exercising.
According to the American College of Cardiology, angina pain may occur in the chest, arm or jaw. If you experience angina, you may also have symptoms such as weariness, lightheadedness, shortness of breath or nausea.
Because it may be difficult for you to determine whether the pain above your left breast is due to angina or other causes, the Mayo Clinic suggests that you schedule an appointment with your doctor if you have symptoms such as the following:
- Chest pain, sometimes described as a sensation of squeezing, burning, pressure or fullness.
- Pain in your jaw, neck, arm, shoulder or back, in addition to the chest pain.
- Sweating (which may be difficult to discern from normal sweating during exercise).
- Shortness of breath.
According to the Mayo Clinic, stable angina is the most common form. This type of angina occurs due to intense exercise or stress. It often goes away within five minutes of resting and, in certain cases, can be treated with medication.
Injury to the Pectoral Muscle
The pectoral muscles are a pair of large muscles located on both sides of the chest, underneath a woman's breasts. The pectorals extend from the chest to the upper arms and shoulders. When you do exercises such as chest flys or push-ups, you are working your pectoral muscles.
It is possible to injure your pectoral muscles while you're lifting, from playing a contact sport or from lifting too much too often. If you lift too much weight, use poor form or strain too much, you could pull or strain your chest muscles with various exercises.
Read more: Chest Pain After Pullups
According to the Cleveland Clinic, repetitive exercise involving the chest can lead to one of the following conditions:
- Costochondritis, an inflammation of the cartilage that connects your ribs to your breast bone.
- Tietze's syndrome, an inflammatory disorder that affects the cartilage in your chest.
- Precordial catch syndrome, which causes localized sharp pain and may occur with or without exercise.
Anxiety and Depression Link
Even if you are in peak health, you can still experience issues with your blood pressure and breathing that can result in pain above your left breast. For example, athletes and people who exercise frequently may develop depression or anxiety.
If you have anxiety or depression, pressure to perform may put additional stress on your mind. This can cause a rise in blood pressure and could potentially cause hyperventilation. If this occurs, you may feel a tightness or pain in your chest.
According to one study published in the journal Frontiers in Physiology in March 2018, researchers estimated the prevalence of depression among more than 300 young elite athletes. They found that about 9.5 percent of the athletes had subclinical depression and another 3.7 percent had full clinical depression.
The same study noted that 6.7 percent of these young athletes had subclinical anxiety, whereas 3.4 percent had full clinical anxiety. In other words, it is not uncommon for people living with depression or anxiety to participate in sports and have anxiety-related chest pain.
Pain Caused by Lung Problems
Another possible cause of chest pain can occur in your lungs. There are several conditions that can cause you to develop a pain in your lungs, which may feel as if it is coming from above your left breast.
For example, you may have exercise-induced bronchospasm (EIB). EIB presents as a sharp pain in the chest during or immediately following exercise. This type of pain may make it difficult for you to breathe. If you have EIB, you may notice that the pain occurs more frequently during different times of the year or based on the conditions where you are running or exercising.
Read more: Why Does My Chest Feel Tight When I Run?
Another common cause of lung pain is the development of a viral or bacterial infection. For example, pneumonia may be caused by either bacteria or a virus and can cause chest pain and problems with breathing.
Another type of infection that is relatively common is pleurisy. Pleurisy causes inflammation of the tissues that line your lungs and chest. If you have pleurisy, you will likely experience sharp pain in your lungs or chest that increases when you inhale.
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are a number of possible causes of pleurisy, including bacteria, fungi, viruses, underlying medical conditions, certain medications and tuberculosis. If you suspect you have pleurisy, you should talk to your doctor about potential treatment options.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.