Chest pain due to sore muscles is a pretty common phenomenon in athletes and older folks. Although not a life-threatening situation, sore chest muscles can be debilitating and can cause severe pain and discomfort.
Sharp, stabbing pain in chest does not need to be an indicator of heart attack. Often, chest pain can occur due to sore chest muscles. Soreness in chest muscles is often due to repetitive, excessive use of muscles, or due to trauma to the chest. When strong force is applied to the chest region, beyond what the chest muscles can bear, the muscles of the chest get bruised and injured. Sore chest muscles are commonly seen in athletes and those involved in contact sports.
When we refer to sore chest muscles, we are referring to bruises or injuries of the pectoralis major muscle, pectoralis minor muscle, intercostal muscles, subclavius, and sternalis muscle in the chest. Depending on which muscle has been torn, injured, or bruised, the symptoms will vary. The health care professional will be able to gauge which muscle has been bruised, from the location of pain and other symptoms involved.
Hacking cough is the primary cause of soreness in the chest muscles. Persistent coughing puts a lot of strain on the chest muscles, chest wall, which eventually results in soreness. Sore chest muscles from coughing is mainly found in people suffering from respiratory disorders such as pneumonia, bronchitis, etc.
Aging weakens the chest muscles. Hence, even slight amount of strain can cause tearing. Sore muscles of chest in old people are also due to the above respiratory problems, since they are more prone to bronchitis and pneumonia.
Strenuous exercises during workouts can cause sore muscles. This is because during the regular course of exercise, the pectoral muscles of the chest may get pulled or strained. Sudden jerks while exercising or lifting weights can also result in sore muscles.
Certain diseases like fibromyalgia cause degeneration of muscles. Hence, soreness of muscles is likely to occur, even at the slightest strain. Similarly, certain infections of the respiratory tract may also cause soreness of muscles.
A hard blow to the chest can cause muscle tear, which eventually leads to soreness and pain. The inflicted area will hurt and be tender to touch. The severity of the pain will depend on the extent of injury caused. If the blow on the chest was very forceful, it can result in broken ribs, whose sharp edges can hurt the muscle of the chest.
During a car accident, the seat belt prevents the person from hitting the windshield, however, the force causes the chest muscles to stretch and tear.
Symptoms of sore chest muscles will vary depending on the severity of the muscle injury. If there has been a slight bruise, slight pain and discomfort will be felt, however, if the injury is severe, the following symptoms will be experienced.
✦ Pain while breathing
✦ Pain and tenderness in the injured area
✦ Chest pain while walking
✦ Inability to move the arm properly
✦ Swelling and redness.
Mild bruises will heal within a week’s time, however, severe bruises and tears will take about 1-2 months to heal. Sadly nothing much can be done to treat sore muscles, other than patiently waiting for the muscle to heal on its own. However, a few things can be done to promote healing and prevent further damage.
Placing cold compress on the inflamed and bruised area helps promote healing. The ice pack will cause vasoconstriction, (narrowing of the blood vessels), and reduce risk of hematoma in the region. Take a few cubes of ice in a Ziploc bag and wrap the bag in a towel. Apply the compress on the affected area of the chest. Applying this ice pack every 2-3 hours is important. You can also use a bag of frozen peas or corn to act as cold compress.
It is important to give the body complete rest for the first two days, after being injured. Even sitting or standing should be avoided, because it causes strain on the chest muscles. Even daily routine activities like combing the hair, waving out, etc. puts strain on the muscles of the chest and must be avoided.
Over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen or naproxen, can be taken to reduce swelling and the pain associated with the sore muscles.
It is important to take deep breaths even if it hurts while doing so. If the pain in the chest is unbearable and deep breathing is not possible, it is important to seek medical assistance as soon as possible. Shallow breathing can cause pneumonia, which is why it is important to make conscious effort to take deep breaths at regular intervals.
Even after the initial days of rest, it is important to avoid activities that cause stress to the chest muscles. Lifting heavy objects or doing anything strenuous is prohibited. Further strain to the already injured chest muscles, will only worsen the condition. Wait for the doctor’s green signal to start driving.
Strapping or taping the chest muscles to treat sore muscles was a common treatment measure, however, it is no longer advised today. This is because taping the chest prevents the lungs from expanding completely while breathing, which can lead to pneumonia. Before trying out any home remedy or drug, it is important to seek your medical practitioner’s advice.
Disclaimer: The information presented here is only meant for reference purpose and must not be used as a substitute for medical practitioner’s advice.