The good news is that chest pain only when breathing probably doesn’t mean a heart attack, but the real bad news is that it likely means that there is something else wrong with your heart.

Causes of chest pain only when breathing can involve the heart, though this does not necessarily mean a heart attack.

“Chest pain while breathing is called pleuritic chest pain and usually means there is inflammation involving the lining of the lungs and/or the heart,” explains Donna P. Denier, MD, of The Cardiology Center with the Appalachian Regional Healthcare System.

This is not related to a heart attack or clogged coronary arteries.

Dr. Denier continues, “When there is inflammation of the lining of the lung it is called pleurisy. Inflammation of the lining of the heart is called pericarditis.

“Both can follow an innocent upper respiratory infection or viral illness. This type of pain is worse on a deep inhale or with movement or lying flat.

“Both are relieved by anti-inflammatory medications and will go away once the inflammation is gone.”

These are not minor conditions. They DO need prompt medical attention. If you’re experiencing pain in the chest only when you breathe in — and it’s significant pain — get to the emergency room.

A Few More Causes of Chest Pain only While Breathing

Dr. Denier says, “Chest pain with breathing can also be caused by pneumonia which would usually also be accompanied by a cough and a fever.”

Unlike viral pneumonia, bacterial pneumonia doesn’t produce a fever.

However, a family member should never take the sufferer’s word for it that they says they “don’t feel warm.”

Take that person’s temperature yourself even if they insist, “I don’t feel hot.”

“Severe coughing can sometimes lead to a rib fracture which causes considerable pain with breathing,” adds Dr. Denier.

donna denier, md

Dr. Denier has been practicing medicine for over 15 years and is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine – Cardiovascular Disease.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  



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