Pain When Breathing: Why and What to Do 

Breathing is such a natural, autonomic process, we aren’t even aware we’re doing it most of the time. If, however, it hurts to breathe, we suddenly become super aware of our respiratory system. If you’re experiencing pain when breathing, it could be caused by many problems. Some are minor while others can signal a medical emergency.

Causes for Pain When Breathing

Here are some of the main causes of experiencing chest pain when inhaling. Read and find out what causes your problem.

1. Injury

Any jury to the chest may cause pain when breathing. If you have a strained muscle or bruise on the chest, or if you break one or more ribs, your chest hurts when I breathe because when you inhale and exhale your damaged ribs or muscles will rub against each other, leading to pain. Rarely, a chest wall injury or the broken rib may penetrate the lung, a condition called pneumothorax, which will definitely cause pain when breathing. This is an emergency and a life-threatening condition, which should seek immediate medical care.

2. Pleurisy

It is a common cause for painful respiration. The pleura is the two-layer lining that surrounds the lungs and the rib cage. One layer covers the lungs while the other covers the inner wall of the chest.Normally there is a small fluid-filled gap that allows the membranes to glide gently, unobtrusively, across each other with each inhale and exhale. If, however, these layers are inflamed, their surfaces scrape across each other like two sheets of sandpaper, resulting in painful breathing. Pleurisy can cause a fluid buildup between the pleura which than increases pressure on the lungs and could cause shortness of breath.

3. Pneumonia

It also causes pain when inhaling. Pneumonia is normally triggered by either a viral or bacterial infection. Along with painful respiration, it is often accompanied by cough, fever, and shortness of breath. This inflammatory condition usually affects the tiny air sacs known as the alveoli.

4. Bronchitis

It is another infection that may be caused by either a virus or bacterium that may lead to pain when breathing. This condition causes inflammation of the medium-sized airways, or bronchi, in the lungs. Other symptoms of bronchitis include heavy phlegm production, coughing, fever, and sore throat.

5. Blood Clots in the Lungs

Blood clots in lungs or pulmonary embolism is a very dangerous condition. This most often occurs when a tiny piece of a blood clot in the leg, known as DTV, or a deep vein thrombosis, breaks off and moves to the lung. Besides chest pain when inhaling, other symptoms of this condition include one leg that suddenly becomes swollen, red, or tender.

6. Pericarditis

Pericardium is the tissue around the heart and next to the lining of the pleura and the lungs, so pericardium inflammation or pericarditis may cause pain when breathing. Although the main cause of pericarditis is viral infections which mostly clear on its own, it can also be triggered by the inflammatory react of a heart attack.

7. Other Causes of Pain When Breathing

Painful breathing can also be caused by the following conditions:

  • Common cold
  • Asthma
  • Angina, lack of blood in your heart
  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Emphysema, the enlargement of the lungs causing lung disfunctions
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Tuberculosis
  • Lung cancer

When to Seek Professional Help

If you experience any of the following symptoms along with painful breathing, you are facing a potential medical crisis and immediate medical care should be sought.

  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid breathing
  • Gasping for breath
  • Feeling air deprivation (like you can’t get enough air)
  • Chest pain
  • Nasal flaring
  • Profuse sweating
  • Choking
  • Pale skin
  • Skin takes on a blue tinge (cyanosis)
  • Coughing blood
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Unconsciousness

How to Diagnose Painful Respiration?

Because pain when breathing has so many causes, a complete evaluation by your physician is often required to find the source of your problem. The doctor will want to know about any family history of lung conditions, your specific symptoms, and if anything makes the pain better or worse. For instance, it is common for people with pneumonia to be able to breathe easier when sitting up rather than reclining.

There are a number of tests your physician could choose to run, including blood and urine tests to look for infection, chest ex-rays, an EKG to measure heart activity, a CT scan, or imaging test. If your doctor can’t find the cause of your pain, he will refer you to a pulmonary specialist to make a specific diagnosis.

How to Deal With Pain When Breathing

If you complain about,"Mt chest hurts when I breathe. What should I do?" Here are the answers. The treatment will, of course, depend on the diagnosis and causes.

  • Antibiotics are the most common prescription for infections such as pleurisy, pneumonia, or bronchitis.
  • Other conditions such as asthma and COPD require long-term treatment includingdrugs and breathing treatments.
  • If you cannot get to medical care immediately and want to ease the pain of breathing, try changing positions. You may feel better sitting up rather than standing or lying down.You may also want to take an anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen.
  • You should also cut down on your activity so that you don’t require as much air. Try to relax and rest.
  • A humidifier in the room or steam inhalation may help clear out airways, thin mucous secretions and soothe your pain.
  • You can mix a teaspoon of powered camphor into half-cup coconut oil, and then massage across the chest with this mixture.
  • Drinking a mixture of honey and garlic several times a day can also soothe your pain when breathing. Bear in mind that these home remedies may help but they can never replace a doctor’s care.