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Chest Hurts When I Cough

When a person says 'right or left side of chest hurts when I cough', the causes may vary from common cold to severe lung problems such as bronchitis or pneumonia.
Nicks J
Last Updated: Mar 19, 2018
Chest hurts while coughing! Well, this is a common complaint among people suffering from common respiratory problems. One of the most important parts of the body, the lungs, are located in the chest area. So, it is obvious that any infection affecting the upper respiratory tract or the lungs are likely to cause chest pain, that is more severe when coughing.
Causes
Injury
An injury that causes pulled chest muscle is quite painful, and the discomfort is more prominent while coughing.
Common Cold
Common cold, a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract typically causes runny nose, fever, trouble breathing and chest congestion. Coughing and sneezing activity associated with common cold may cause dull to sharp chest pain.
Influenza (Flu)
Influenza is considered to be a severe form of cold that can also bring about chest discomfort while coughing and breathing. Although, this respiratory problem initially imitates the symptoms of common cold, the onset is sudden and rapidly worsens with time. Besides high fever, headache and muscle aches, you are likely to experience dry cough that gives rise to stabbing pain in the chest area.
Pneumonia
This condition typically causes inflammation of the lungs, in most cases due to a bacterial infection. The onset of pneumonia typically begins with fever and cough, followed by breathing problems and chest pain. Coughing activity in pneumonia aggravates the patient's chest discomfort.
Tuberculosis
This is a severe bacterial infection that affects the lungs. Initially, you may experience excessive sweating at night and this may be followed by frequent episodes of coughing. TB patients suffer from a productive cough that may produce mucus or blood. Chest pain is common in tuberculosis and is often felt while coughing. This is a contagious infection and sharing a room with an infection person is the most common way of getting tuberculosis.
Emphysema
Emphysema refers to the inflammation of alveoli (air sacs located in the lungs), the place where inhaled oxygen is passed down to the bloodstream and at the same time carbon dioxide is sucked out of the body. Thus, proper working of alveoli is crucial for normal breathing. In emphysema, the elasticity of the inflamed alveoli is impaired. As a result, this slows down the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide, ultimately causing breathing problems. This may be accompanied by chest pain that worsens while breathing and coughing.
Pneumothorax
This is yet another respiratory condition that can trigger chest pain while coughing. Also referred to as collapsed lungs, in this condition the air inhaled enters the forbidden region located between the chest wall and outside the lungs. As the air continues to fill up this space, lungs find it difficult to expand properly. This happens because the accumulated air in the space put excessive pressure on the lungs from outside. Pneumothorax is typically marked by breathing problems and chest discomfort that worsens during an episode of cough. A chest injury (inflicted from an accident or a gunshot) or pre-existing lung diseases such as tuberculosis and pneumonia can cause pneumothorax.
Excessive Coughing
With every cough, the chest muscles involved in breathing contract. Repeated contraction of muscles due to excessive coughing can eventually damage the muscles. Frequent bouts of cough can be strenuous for the chest muscles. Chest muscle pain is something that has been commonly linked to excessive coughing. Discomfort on any side of the chest is a common complaint in people suffering from whooping cough. A pulled chest muscle due to coughing is also quite common but in most cases heals without any medical intervention.
Costochondritis
Costochondritis is a condition in which the cartilage (soft elastic tissues at the end of the bones) that attaches the breastbone to the rib bone is swollen. Ribs is a cage-like structure made up of bones surrounding the chest. When this cartilage joining the ribs to the breastbone is inflamed, apart from pain when touching the breastbone, you may feel chest pain while coughing.
Acid reflux
Burning sensation in the chest area while coughing can also be due to acid reflux disease (heartburn), a condition in which stomach acids that aid in digestion, gain access to the food pipe. The food pipe is a tube that extends from the mouth to the stomach. All the ingested food enters the stomach through this tube. Acid reflux is a condition in which the stomach acid travels backwards and reach the food pipe. Although the presence of stomach acids causes chest pain, the coughing action aggravates the condition considerably.
Bronchitis
Bronchitis is a condition in which the moist tissues (mucous membrane) that surround the bronchial tubes are swollen. Bronchial tubes are passages that allow free flow of air, to and from the lungs. Bronchitis is typically marked by mild chest pain that aggravates substantially, whenever the person coughs. In bronchitis, the person suffers from mucus producing cough and with every cough the person has to face the brunt of chest discomfort.
Cystic Fibrosis
Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disorder in which the mucus produced in the lungs is abnormally thick and sticky, instead of a slippery liquid. The sticky mucus starts accumulating in the airways and eventually clogs up the passages that allow free flow of air to and from the lungs. This buildup of mucus creates a perfect soil for bacteria. As a result, the patient suffers from recurring lung infection. Also, the patient coughs frequently in an attempt to expel the mucus and this is often accompanied by chest discomfort. Apart from mucus producing cough, the patient is likely to experience breathlessness and at later stages, the condition is typically marked by constant chest pain that may be difficult to control.
Asthma
Asthma that is typically by chronically inflamed airways of the lungs, causes breathing problems that aggravate in the winter season. Due to constricted airways, patients tend to make a wheezing sound while breathing. Shortness of breath causing difficulty sleeping followed by chest tightness, especially when coughing are some of the most common symptoms of asthma. Although the cause of asthma is not known, exposure to respiratory irritants such as pollen, mold and cold air can trigger onset of asthma symptoms.
Pleuritis
In this condition, the serous membrane lining both the lungs and the inner walls of the chest are swollen. A person affected with pleuritis experiences mild to moderate chest pain while breathing that aggravates by coughing. Chest discomfort associated with pleuritis does not remain localized and may travel all the way up to the shoulder area.
Ways to Reduce Chest Pain
Mucus build up due to respiratory problems can cause sharp pain in the chest, especially while coughing. So, getting rid of this accumulated mucus is the key to alleviate pain. Drinking plenty of water and inhaling steam helps to liquefy the mucus, in turn helping to facilitate its expulsion. Following a healthy diet and avoiding smoking can also contribute to reduce build up of mucus. One should also stay away from milk and dairy products as it promotes production of mucus. Use of air conditioners and air filters can also help to improve indoor air quality. These devices will ensure that your home is free from air contaminants such as molds, that are known to worsen respiratory problems.
After knowing the factors responsible for 'chest hurts when I cough', you might be eager to be aware of treatment that relieves this sort of discomfort. Taking painkillers like aspirin or other NSAIDs like naproxen and ibuprofen may help to relieve chest pain. In case, the patient is suffering from frequent episodes of cough, taking an over the counter cough syrup is recommended. In order to diagnose the underlying cause, a chest X-ray is necessary. Blood and sputum tests may also be required to confirm the diagnosis. A chest X-ray will assist in identifying abnormalities that have affected the lungs, or its associated tissues. After examining the results of a chest X-ray, the doctor will advice appropriate treatment to cure the pain.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.