This article on Epainassist.com has been reviewed by a medical professional, as well as checked for facts, to assure the readers the best possible accuracy.

We follow a strict editorial policy and we have a zero-tolerance policy regarding any level of plagiarism. Our articles are resourced from reputable online pages. This article may contains scientific references. The numbers in the parentheses (1, 2, 3) are clickable links to peer-reviewed scientific papers.

The feedback link “Was this Article Helpful” on this page can be used to report content that is not accurate, up-to-date or questionable in any manner.

This article does not provide medical advice.


What Causes Sharp Pain With Inspiration and What Can Be Done About It?

Experiencing a sharp pain when breathing in or inspiration can be quite scary and disabling.  The pain can range in severity from a mild dull ache to a sharp pain.  This can occur due to several reasons.  In majority of the cases, sharp pain with inspiration around the chest and ribs is not a cause of worry unless it is accompanied by other symptoms like shortness of breath or radiation of pain up the arms into the neck.  Such pains generally resolve spontaneously and do not require any treatment [1, 2, 3].

However, if other symptoms mentioned above are also experienced then it may indicate a more serious problem and requires an emergency room visit.  If a person has chest pains which does not have a cause and is accompanied by symptoms like loss of consciousness, difficulty breathing, nasal flaring, choking, feeling as is not enough air is going in, and dizziness, then it is recommended to consult with a physician to identify a cause and start treatment for it [1, 2, 3].  This article highlights some of the possible causes for sharp pain with inspiration and what can be done about it.

What Causes Sharp Pain With Inspiration and What Can Be Done About It?

What Causes Sharp Pain With Inspiration and What Can Be Done About It?

Some of the possible causes for sharp pain with inspiration include:

1. Pneumonia:

Commonly known as collapsed lungs, this condition occurs when air enters the space between the lungs and the chest wall.  This space is called the pleural cavity.  The presence of air exerts pressure on the pleural cavity causing a portion or the lungs or even the entire lungs to collapse.  The primary cause of Pneumothorax is an injury to the chest such as with a motor vehicle accident, stab or gunshot wound to the chest.  It can also be caused due to medical conditions like tuberculosis [3].

A person with Pneumothorax will feel a sharp pain with inspiration.  Other symptoms of this condition include problems with breathing, chest tightness, palpitations, fatigue, and sometimes cyanosis [3].

Treatment: The primary treatment for this condition is to remove the excess air from the pleural cavity.  This is done by inserting a needle or a chest tube.  Mild cases of pneumothorax resolve spontaneously and do not require any treatment [3].

2. Pleurisy

This condition is caused due to inflammation of the tissue that lines the chest cavity and covers the outer half of the lungs.  It is called pleura.  It is mainly caused due to bacterial or viral infection, especially viral.  The primary symptom of this condition is sharp pain with inspiration along with pain radiating to the shoulders and back, coughing, and problems with breathing [3].

Treatment: The underlying cause of pleurisy determined the treatment for it.  For bacterial causes, antibiotics are prescribed and for viral causes antivirals.  For the inflammation, NSAIDs are given to control it [3].

3. Costochondritis

This is quite a common cause for sharp pain with inspiration.  Costochondritis is caused when there is inflammation of the cartilage that connects the breast bone to the ribs.  The pain experienced by this condition can be quite sharp and severe.  It may often be mistaken by people as a heart attack.  What causes this inflammation is not clearly understood but it may occur due to rigorous exercise, chest injury, or an infection [3].

Treatment: There is no treatment required for costochondritis and it resolves on its own.  Sometimes, physician may prescribe antiinflammatories to control the inflammation.  Additionally, physical therapy and exercises are also effective in managing the symptoms of costochondritis.  If the pain does not resolve then an injection of corticosteroids may have to be given directly into the affected region to relieve the symptoms [3].

4. Chest Injury

This is also one of the most common causes for sharp pain with inspiration.  The injury can be caused due to a sporting accident, motor vehicle crash, stabbing or gunshot wound, or a fall.  Aside from the sharp pain with inspiration other symptoms include problems with breathing, hemoptysis, and radiation of pain to the back [3].

Treatment: The physicians will analyze the extent of the injury and then decide on the course of action with regard to treatment.  CPR may have to be given for people who have severe problems with breathing.  A chest injury is an emergent medical condition and requires immediate treatment [3].

5. Anxiety and Stress

Undue stress can lead to anxiety attacks.  One of the symptoms of an anxiety attack is a sharp pain with inspiration.  Additional symptoms of an anxiety attack are palpitations, problems breathing, dizziness, and headache [3].

Treatment: The basic treatment for anxiety disorder includes cognitive behavioral therapy along with anxiety medications.  Joining support groups is also quite beneficial for people with anxiety disorder.  It is recommended to seek professional counseling for anxiety and stress related issues to formulate the best treatment plan [3].

6. Pericarditis

This is a medical condition characterized by inflammation of the pericardium or the tissue that surrounds the heart.  There are various causes to it including viral infections, injury to the heart during a surgery, inflammatory disorders like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis [3].

Certain medical conditions like kidney dysfunction and tuberculosis also can cause pericarditis.  Along with sharp pain with inspiration a person with pericarditis will also experience fever, difficulty breathing, dizziness, palpitations, and fever [3].

Treatment: The treatment for pericarditis depends on the cause of it and the severity of the condition.  Mild cases of pericarditis resolve on their own while severe cases may require pain medications and corticosteroids to decrease inflammation and relieve symptoms [3].

In conclusion, in majority of the cases sharp pain with inspiration is not a cause of worry and resolves spontaneously unless other symptoms like problems breathing or dizziness are associated with it.  In such cases it may indicate a more serious problem that will require medical treatment [1, 2, 3].

There are a variety of medical conditions that cause sharp pain with inspiration which have been detailed above.  It is recommended that any person who is experiencing sharp pain with inspiration should consult with a physician to identify the cause and if it is deemed to be serious start treatment for it [1, 2, 3].


Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:February 1, 2022

Recent Posts

Related Posts