Does Pneumothorax Hurt?

If you have ever heard stories of patients who have suffered from pneumothorax, then you are aware pain is just part of the condition. The pain, however, depends on how much damage has been done. On top of that, breathing is not an easy task and during inhalation, it might hurt a tad bit or much. Pain is usually a result of pressure on the lungs due to the presence of air in the pleural cavity. A collapsed lung, especially when the damage is over 80%, can also hurt as the organ is slightly off its normal position. Other than that, treatment for pneumothorax, especially chest tube insertion or corrective lung surgery are also painful, more so during the recovery stage. So, if you are diagnosed with pneumothorax, be prepared to embrace pain; although, most of the time it is bearable and one can survive through the hurt.

Does Pneumothorax Hurt?

How does a pneumothorax feel? Pneumothorax feels different to every patient depending on what has initially attributed to the development of the condition. In some cases of pneumothorax, it may start out with a fluttering sensation, which is caused by the pressure building up in the chest. As the pressure continues to build up, the pain starts to kick in and breathing becomes ragged and decreases with time. Pneumothorax may also start out with a sudden chest on the side of the affected (collapsed) lung. The pain may extend towards the neck, back, shoulder and arm on that particular side. It almost feels like a heart attack, only that your heart is in shape and the lung is the compromised organ in this case. Pain is not constant and seems to come and go from time to time. In addition to pain, you may also have other symptoms such as a severe cough, tiredness, out of the breath on several occasions. These are usually experienced as the condition advances and start to become more severe in nature. Smaller lung collapses barely hurt as much as pain is only acute.

When it comes to treating a collapsed lung, the process is not a painless journey. On the contrary, when a chest tube insertion is performed, the pain is usually unbearable and an unforgettable ordeal. The pain comes about as it is difficult to fit the chest tube between two ribs so as to reach the pleural cavity. Not to mention, the procedure is performed when you are wide awake and the anesthesia administered might not effectively numb the chest cavity. Even worse, if the medical practitioner performing the tube insertion is not skilled or do it the wrong way. Corrective lung surgeries also cause their own share of pain because the pleural lining is extremely delicate with plenty of nerves and sensitive to any disturbance as well. Afterward, during recovery, pain is imminent as the chest has been through physical trauma due to surgery or chest tube insertion.

Causes and Symptoms of Pneumothorax

Pneumothorax can be caused by traumatic incidences such as chest injury, stab wound or bullet, broken ribs. It can also be as a result of non-traumatic causes such as lung disease – COPD, pneumonia, asthma, lung cancer or cystic fibrosis. In other cases, pneumothorax may develop spontaneously, arising as a result of unidentified causes. Risk factors which increase one’s chance of developing pneumothorax include; smoking, family history or body type – tall and skinny people due to their chest formation.

The symptoms of a collapsed lung due to pneumothorax include; shortness of breath, chest pain that is usually sudden and sharp in nature, rapid breathing and increased heartbeat rate as well as coughing. Bluish skin discoloration (cyanosis) may also be seen over the affected lung.


Pneumothorax does hurt and every patient has their own tale to tell on how painful it can get. Pain can be as a result of the pressure on the lungs due to the presence of air in the pleural space. Treatment methods – surgery and chest tube insertion – also contribute to the hurt one may experience during their pneumothorax period. The pain will go away as pneumothorax resolves after treatment, and the pain will only be part of the past.

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:October 8, 2018

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