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DrSugar Answers: Stress, Chest Pains, and Running

DrSugar is in the house and he's answering your health questions.

Dear DrSugar,
I am a runner, fairly young (about to turn 30), and in good shape. However, I've been under an enormous amount of professional stress lately and have been experiencing chest tightness after work, which is when I usually go for my runs, as its the only time I can fit them in. I know that this is merely my body's response to stress, but I'm wondering if its still safe to run while having these mild chest pains . . . will they likely subside with exercise, or should I take to walking instead of running until my stress at work decreases? Thanks,
— Regular Runner

To see what the Doc has to say about this problem,


Chest tightness is a very common manifestation of stress or anxiety. It is common for healthy people, like you, to experience mild chest tightness after a long day at the office. This tightness is usually related to muscle tension that develops during periods of stress. This type of chest discomfort is not serious and should definitely not preclude you from taking a jog. Jogging may actually helps relieve stress and reduce the chest tightness. Chest tightness can be a sign of a more serious heart or lung condition, but this is unlikely in an otherwise healthy, young and active person.

If chest tightness is bothering you after work, you can try some simple maneuvers to help relieve the muscle tightness and stress. One method involves opening up your chest muscles by clasping your hands behind your back and then lifting them up while bending forward — like this pec stretch. Simple deep breathing exercises can also help loosen up the chest and relieve stress. Other methods that can help relieve stress at work include office yoga and other meditation techniques. If the chest tightness is worrisome or painful and not easily relieved, it’s always a good idea to get checked out by a doctor. Good luck and happy jogging.

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