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Is Chest Pain After Exercise Always Serious?

Is Chest Pain After Exercise Always Serious?

Exercise is a crucial component of a healthy lifestyle, offering numerous benefits for your physical and mental well-being. However, chest pain after exercise could indicate a problem with your heart. The discomfort could also stem from numerous other issues that may or may not be life-threatening.  

Our team at Premier Cardiology Consultants serves individuals throughout New York City with outstanding cardiovascular care focused on helping you live your healthiest life.

We’re happy to provide information about chest pain after exercise and when it might indicate a more serious issue.

Understanding chest pain

Chest pain after exercise can have various causes, ranging from benign muscular issues to potentially serious heart problems. Because the type of pain you’re experiencing may help identify its underlying cause, our physicians usually start narrowing the possible causes by characterizing your pain.

For instance, chest pain is a broad term that can include dull, aching pain that decreases with changes in position or a brief, sharp, and stabbing pain that comes and goes. These types of chest discomfort are often related to noncardiac issues such as muscle strain or nerve irritation.

On the other hand, individuals often describe pain associated with a heart issue as a squeezing or pressure sensation, like a weight sitting on your chest. It tends to build in intensity and lasts longer than 30 minutes. Changes in position don’t help relieve the pain, which often radiates into the neck, jaw, back, or arm.  

If you’re having chest pain, paying attention to the nature, intensity, and duration of the discomfort is crucial. Because chest pain is a classic symptom of a heart attack, we recommend seeking medical attention quickly if you have risk factors for heart disease or are not sure what’s causing your discomfort.

Common causes of chest pain after exercise

There are many causes of chest pain after exercise; some of the most common include:

Muscular soreness or strain

Muscle soreness is a familiar post-exercise sensation caused by microscopic damage to muscle fibers. This discomfort typically resolves within a day or two. Vigorous workouts or improper form can lead to muscular strain in the chest, causing more intense pain than soreness.


Heartburn occurs when stomach acid flows back into the esophagus. Exercise may exacerbate this condition, leading to chest pain along with burning discomfort.


Inflammation of the cartilage (costochondritis) that connects the ribs to the breast bone (sternum) can lead to chest pain.

Excessive or repetitive movements during exercise, such as heavy weightlifting or intense cardio, can contribute to costochondritis. A broken or cracked rib can also cause sharp pain in the chest with movement or exercise.

Respiratory conditions

Asthma, pneumonia, and other lung problems can cause chest pain after exercise that may worsen with deep breaths.


Chest pain during or after exercise could indicate angina (reduced blood flow to the heart muscles). This condition may manifest as a tightness or pressure in the chest. If the pain is persistent or accompanied by other symptoms like shortness of breath, it's crucial to seek immediate medical attention.

Myocardial infarction (heart attack)

A heart attack can occur during or after exercise, especially in individuals with pre-existing heart conditions. Chest pain during a heart attack is often severe and may radiate to the arm, jaw, or back. Seek emergency medical help if you suspect a heart attack.

When to seek medical attention for chest pain

Our Premier Cardiology team recommends scheduling a visit whenever you’re concerned about your heart health. However, seek urgent medical care if you experience:

Sudden, severe pain

If your chest pain is sudden, severe, and feels like a crushing or squeezing sensation, seek immediate medical attention, as it could be a sign of a heart attack.

Radiating pain

Chest pain that radiates to the arms, neck, jaw, or back may indicate a cardiovascular issue.

Shortness of breath

Difficulty breathing, especially when accompanied by chest pain, requires prompt medical evaluation.

Other symptoms

Don’t ignore dizziness, nausea, or profuse sweating alongside chest pain since these are also classic signs of a heart attack.

If you experience chest pain after exercise, our Premier Cardiology Consultants team may recommend an electrocardiogram (ECG), stress test, or imaging studies to evaluate your heart health. Schedule your evaluation today.  

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