Chest pain is one of the most common reasons people call for emergency medical help and, according to MayoClinic.com, the reason for millions of visits to the ER each year. Although heart issues are at the forefront of most people's mind when they talk about chest pain, the pain can come from your lungs, esophagus, muscles, ribs, tendons, nerves, or even spread from your neck, abdomen, or back. If it is occurring only when you stretch, it narrows the potential causes but is still important to investigate.
When Chest Pain Requires Immediate Attention
If your chest pain when you stretch comes suddenly with crushing, squeezing pressure, if you have nausea, dizziness, sweating, rapid heart rate or shortness of breath, consider it a medical emergency and seek medical attention immediately.
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Chest Pain With Stretching
If your chest pain is only present when you stretch, look to structures that move when you stretch. This list would start with joints and muscles, but would also include organs that are compressed or stretched by your movement. Any of these sources of pain can produce inflammation or swelling and create irritation of nearby nerve roots.
Joints and Muscles and Chest Pain
There are few joints in your chest, mostly ribs that join the sternum, but a condition called slipped rib syndrome can cause pain with stretching movement or deep breathing, according to research published in 1979 in the "Journal of the National Medical Association." Joints in the spine can be misaligned and irritate the nerve that runs between the ribs and cause pain that is felt in the chest. In addition, pulled muscles between the ribs can cause pain when you stretch and open the space between the ribs.
Organs and Chest Pain
Lung infections can leave you with pressure in the lungs that will cause pain when you stretch. Pleurisy, according to the MedlinePlus online medical encyclopedia, is an inflammation of the lining around the lungs. Irritation of your esophagus where it enters the top of the stomach may cause pain when you stretch because you are stretching that organ. Your gallbladder and pancreas can also be sources of referred chest pain if those organs are not healthy.
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.