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. Yes, your workouts should feel challenging, but chest pain during a workout is never normal.
If you are experiencing chest pain during a workout, stop, let someone know, and call 911. If you exercise regularly and experience extreme fatigue or shortness of breath that is atypical for you, these could also be warning signs of underlying heart disease.
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 does not get the fuel and oxygen it needs, and discomfort ensues.
Common symptoms during exercise may include:
- Squeezing sensation in the neck and down the left arm
- 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
If you experience chest pain that concerns you – go see a doctor. Do not ignore it or alter your behavior (such as discontinuing exercise) in the hopes it will not happen again. A doctor can easily tell the difference between classic heart pain and 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
Take No Chances with Chest Pain
If you have pain or other symptoms that are leading you to change your lifestyle or stop doing things you enjoy – see a doctor – especially if you are older and have two or more of the risk factors for heart disease
However, if you are a patient who already has a known heart problem, it is 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.