VCS Blog

Why Do I Have Chest Pains During Exercise?

By: Dr. Christopher S.Thomas

Whether you’ve just started a new exercise program, or are trying to reach new fitness goals, you may find yourself experiencing some degree of chest pains. These symptoms can be alarming and even frightening. In this article, we explain why these pains occur, some common symptoms, and what you can do to address them.

Why Chest Pains During Exercise Occur

People develop chest pains during exercise because the heart receives signals from the brain to do more work. This means the heart beats harder to pump more blood to fuel the body. If the heart has any sort of blockages, the blood vessels cannot properly dilate. The body doesn’t get the fuel and oxygen it needs, and discomfort ensues.

Common symptoms during exercise may include:
● Pressure
● Tightness
● Squeezing sensation in the neck and down the left arm
● Nausea
● Shortness of breath
● Hot and cold sweats

Chest pain symptoms can vary – some may feel sharp pain, or little at all. Women are more likely than men to experience uncommon symptoms. Older people and people with diabetes may also have abnormal symptoms, which can sometimes be vague and difficult to diagnose — fatigue, altered mental status, or pain that changes in severity.

What to Do if You Experience Chest Pains During Exercise

The bottom line is: if you experience chest pain that concerns you – go see a doctor. Don’t ignore it or alter your behavior (such as discontinuing exercise) in the hopes it won’t happen again. A doctor can easily tell the difference between classic heart pain or angina, but a professional evaluation is best.

Other signs that you should consult a doctor include:
● Developing pain only when you exercise, as compared to rest
● Shortness of breath severe enough that your daily activities are limited
● Feeling dizzy or that you may pass out after exercise

Don’t put yourself in a situation where you’re scared to exercise or perform your normal activities. Most people who experience chest pains are unlikely to have heart problems so severe that they will be advised not to exercise.

If you have pain or other symptoms that are leading you to change your lifestyle or cease doing things you enjoy, see a doctor. Getting evaluated by a heart specialist will be worth it just for peace of mind.

However, if you’re a patient who already has a known heart problem, it’s important to see a doctor before beginning an exercise regimen. Some people need to exercise under the guidance of a cardiac rehabilitation specialist, who are knowledgeable about exercise programs for people with heart and lung conditions.

If you’re worried about chest pains or any of the other symptoms above, don’t continue to worry. Contact VCS at 804-288-4827 to schedule an appointment and discuss your chest pain with an expert.

Published June 14, 2019

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