Is it at all possible for the heart to literally “hurt,” especially from coughing?

Many people have experienced chest pain triggered by coughing but not at any other time.

“Chest pain with coughing is not uncommon, especially if a person is coughing a lot,” says Nichole M. Polin, MD, FACC, Director, Cardio-Oncology Clinic, Ochsner Health System.

“Pain can occur from overuse of the muscles in the chest and cause soreness,” explains Dr. Polin.

No amount of coughing, however, can cause pain to emanate from the heart itself.

But don’t forget that the skeletal muscles that are sore from a lot of forceful coughing are located in the chest, in front of (anterior to) the heart.

In fact, the sternum bone, which protects the heart, is between the muscles and the heart.

True “heart pain” is when something is wrong with the heart, such as inadequate blood flow through its coronary arteries due to plaque buildup.

If one of these arteries just happens to go into a spontaneous spasm, this too, can cause chest pain from a “hurting heart.”

But coughing forcefully will not damage the heart, though it will indeed give you a scratchy sore throat along with the sore chest muscles.

Sharp chest pain which is worse with inspiration [inhaling] can also occur if there is inflammation of the lining of the lung or ‘pleurisy,’ associated with an upper respiratory infection,” adds Dr. Polin. An upper respiratory tract infection can cause coughing.

dr. polin
Dr. Polin is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine, ABIM – cardiovascular disease, ABIM – interventional cardiology and certification board of nuclear cardiology.
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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