Tension in the chest


Pulling in the chest is a non-specific symptom that can indicate various diseases. In addition to serious diseases of the chest organs, there can also be harmless and superficial causes that are easy to treat. A basic distinction must be made as to whether the pulling in the chest is localized or whether it spreads diffusely in the chest. Pulling can also be breath-dependent or permanent. The pain can also be provoked by exertion, external pressure, certain movements and other factors. All of this defines the unspecific pulling in the chest in more detail and subsequently suggests possible causes.


There are many causes for chest pulling, dangerous and harmless. The chest organs are protected from the outside by the rigid rib structure that forms the chest. The ribs are linked to one another on the sternum and to their respective vertebrae on the back.Superficial pulling in the chest can be attributed to damage to the ribs such as bruises, a break, or even series breaks. These can occur through falls and blows and sometimes lead to severe, often breath-dependent pain. Corresponding nerves, the so-called "intercostal nerves", continue to run along the individual ribs. They too can be affected and lead to drawing pains.

The surface of the rib cage is also covered by various muscle groups. These muscles are involved in movements of the chest, upper arms, abdominal wall, and shoulder movements. Overuse, often self-induced by strength training, can cause enormous pain in movement. Symptoms that only affect women can be related to the female breast. A pulling in the chest can indicate various changes in the tissue that should be clarified by a doctor. The pulling can indicate growth, such as during puberty or at the beginning of pregnancy, but it can also have something to do with tissue changes such as tumors. Pulling chest pains are also common when breastfeeding, for example when the mammary gland is inflamed while breastfeeding.
Find out more about the topic here: Drawing in the chest in the woman

More rarely, there are diseases of the lungs, heart or some upper abdominal organs behind the pulling in the chest. An acute, diffuse drawing and stinging in the chest can be a major symptom of a recent heart attack. Often there is also a shortage of breath. The shortness of breath with drawing in the chest can also indicate changes in the lungs such as tumors, smoking diseases, pulmonary embolisms and other diseases, some of which are acutely life-threatening. In the case of acute, diffuse and very violent pain associated with shortness of breath, threatening diseases of the chest organs must be clarified by a doctor.

Heart attack

Heart attack is a very common and life-threatening disease that affects many thousands of people in Germany every year. The disease poses a problem for industrialized nations because it is the end point of many societal, preventable diseases. In a heart attack, a blood clot blocks a narrowed coronary artery. As a result, the blood supply to the heart is interrupted, which damages heart muscle tissue. In severe cases, a heart attack can be fatal on the spot, nowadays the chances of survival are increasing due to modern therapy options. The first symptom is sudden, often extremely severe chest pain. It may feel stinging or like chest tightness. In addition, there is often a shortage of breath. In some cases, the pain can also radiate to the arms, lower jaw, back and upper abdomen. An acute diffuse chest pull can be an important and serious indicator of such a heart attack.

Find out more about the following topics:

  • Signs of a heart attack
  • Diagnosis of a heart attack
  • How can you prevent a heart attack?
  • Consequences of a heart attack
  • Causes of a heart attack


Cardiac stumbling is a colloquial term for a form of cardiac arrhythmia. As the name suggests, it is an irregularity in the heartbeat which can lead to faster heartbeats and subsequent short pauses in the heartbeat. Stumbling the heart is often perceived by those affected as uncomfortable and worrying, but it does not pose a threat at first. Many people experience occasional stumbling of the heart and rarely needs treatment. Typical symptoms that those affected hear are dizziness and light attacks of weakness, and occasionally shortness of breath. Stress can also cause palpitations along with spikes in blood pressure and chest pain. At first this is not a cause for concern. Conversely, however, severe chest pain caused by a heart attack can lead to disorders in the heart's conduction system. As a result, a heart stumble can occur in addition to a heart attack.

You can find more information on the subject of heart palpitations here:

  • Causes of palpitations
  • Palpitations from stress
  • How to recognize palpitations
  • Detecting arrhythmia

Pulmonary embolism

Much like heart attack, pulmonary embolism is a disease caused by a blood clot. In this case, too, the blood clot blocks another blood vessel, which can lead to life-threatening complications. In these cases, however, in contrast to heart attacks, they are less likely to be due to vascular blockages and chronic diseases. The cause is often a blood clot that forms due to a venous congestion in the leg. This can then be washed through the heart into the pulmonary vessels and stop the blood supply. As a result, there is acute drawing in the chest, severe pain and shortness of breath. For laypeople it is difficult to distinguish the pain from a heart attack. Both cases are dangerous and life-threatening emergency situations.

Find out more about the topic here: Pulmonary Embolism Symptoms


The causes of chest pulling are numerous, but the number can be narrowed down as far as possible through detailed inquiries about the symptoms and a physical examination. In order to confirm potential suspected diagnoses, imaging methods or other diagnostic tools often have to be used. For the diagnosis of musculoskeletal complaints, radiological methods such as x-rays or computed tomography, and more rarely magnetic resonance tomography, are used. Here, bone fractures and muscle defects can be displayed and diagnosed in the best possible way. Chronic enlargement of the heart and defects in the lungs, such as inflammation, tumors or pulmonary embolism, can also be confirmed in this way. Further radiological procedures can be used for special vascular diseases of the lungs or the heart. For example, a so-called "cardiac catheter examination" can be effective in the case of acute heart problems.

Find out more about the topics here:

  • Chest pain from tension
  • Drawing in the left chest
  • Burning in the chest
  • Chest pain from nerves

accompanying symptoms

The accompanying symptoms vary with the underlying disease and can therefore provide important information on suspected diagnoses in diagnostics. Superficial complaints, which affect the ribs and muscles in particular, but also the mammary gland in women, can usually be well localized and exacerbated by external pressure. They can also get stronger with movement and deep breathing. Changes in the female breast can be accompanied by typical symptoms of hormonal changes in women.

Diseases of the cardiovascular system cause not only a tearing in the chest but also typical relevant symptoms. Since the lungs and heart are responsible for the blood flow and the supply of all body cells with oxygen, the accompanying symptoms can range from shortness of breath, chest pain and dizziness to fainting attacks and coma.


Treatment varies widely with the underlying cause. Symptomatic pain relief can be used to control chest pulling. First, an attempt is made to use an agent from the group of NSAIDs. These include ibuprofen, diclofenac and indomethacin, among others. If the pain persists, higher doses or painkillers of the "opioids" can be taken. In the case of a heart attack, opioids such as “morphine” are used in addition to other treatment methods to alleviate severe chest pain. Furthermore, drugs are available in the treatment of heart attack that can stop and dissolve the blood clot so that blood flow in the heart is guaranteed as quickly as possible.

Pulling pains that come from the female breast, on the other hand, are usually only treated symptomatically. Often there are hormonal, necessary processes behind it. After the changes at the beginning of a pregnancy or during your period, the symptoms will go away by themselves.


The duration and prognosis can also only be predicted with the underlying disease. The duration of musculoskeletal problems in the chest depends on the severity of the injury. As a rule, untreated pain subsides after a few days to weeks. However, fractures or torn muscles can take a few weeks to complete. Female breast disorders can vary in duration. Pulling pains caused by hormone fluctuations also subside if left untreated within a few days to weeks. Inflammation of the breast can also be cured in a few days with the right therapy. Diseases of the organs of the chest are often long-term developments and chronic diseases. A heart attack is often caused by decades of problems that cannot be cured. However, the pulling in the chest is only a warning signal in the acute situation and subsides after a few hours with the treatment.

Learn more about: Rehabilitation after a heart attack

Drawing in the chest in the woman

A pulling in the chest in women can be traced back to the female breast. This can be found out quickly in the interview and physical examination. One cause for this can be an inflammation of the mammary gland. The chest is swollen and red and also very painful. The pain can be narrowed down and can be provoked by external pressure. Breast pulling can also occur as the breast grows. For example, at the beginning of a pregnancy, the fat tissue in the breast is largely converted into functional glandular tissue that produces the mother's milk. Due to these processes, which accompany growth of the breast, a drawing pain often occurs. The pulling is caused by pulling on the skin and subcutaneous tissue. A similar pull is also observed in the growth of tumors in the breast. Most of them are benign so-called "adenomas". However, in rare cases, breast pulling can also be a symptom of breast cancer. A chest pull is also not uncommon during the monthly period. Although this is uncomfortable, it does not pose a major risk.

You can find out more about the topic here:

  • How do you recognize breast cancer?
  • Drawing in the chest in the woman
  • Breast pain in pregnancy
  • Chest pain in the woman

Drawing in man's chest

In a man, in addition to the organic causes of the lungs and the heart, it is primarily the skeletal and muscular systems that are behind the pulling in the chest. While the pain in the mammary gland predominates in women, men are statistically significantly more likely to suffer from heart attacks. This is mainly due to the fact that men are more often affected by obesity, smoking, high blood pressure and an unhealthy lifestyle as disease factors.

Under Chest pain in men get more information!

Chest drawing with abdominal pain

The chest is in close anatomical proximity to the upper abdomen, which mainly contains the stomach, liver, gall bladder and other organs. Symptoms of the upper abdomen often project their pain onto the chest and trigger a pull there. In women, for example, this can indicate pregnancy. At the beginning of pregnancy, nausea and abdominal pain may be accompanied by chest pulling. All of these symptoms are caused by the initial hormonal and body changes.

However, diseases of the gastrointestinal tract can also be behind the pulling in the chest. A common cause of this is over-acidification of the gastric mucosa. This initially leads to heartburn, but can continue to lead to so-called "reflux disease" and inflammation of the mucous membranes of the stomach and esophagus. A typical symptom is a pulling pain behind the breastbone and in the upper abdomen.

Tension in the chest when breastfeeding

Breastfeeding problems occur in very many cases in the female breast. During this time, the breast is very sensitive and subject to many external stimuli as well as hormonal changes and adjustments. After giving birth, breastfeeding promotes changes in hormonal balance, which can lead to abdominal pain and chest pulling. The nipple can be very irritated and tender when breastfeeding. The additional stimuli from the baby can cause minor injuries to the skin around the nipple. In these cases, pathogens can penetrate the breast and in the worst case lead to so-called "mastitis puerperalis", an inflammation of the mammary gland. Breastfeeding itself is the most suitable therapy for the breast and the hormonal balance. Only in very rare and severe cases of breast inflammation does it need to be weaned.

Read more on the topic: Painful breastfeeding and Pain in the nipple

Chest tightening on inhalation

If the pulling in the chest occurs when inhaling, this speaks against an organic cause of the lungs or heart. Breath-dependent pain often has its origin in the ribs, muscles or superficial nerves. Breathing becomes excruciatingly painful, especially with bruised ribs and broken ribs. Sufficient pain relievers must be taken to relieve the pain in order to allow normal breathing. If there is no such break, the cause can often be found in the chest. In most cases, this is due to harmless nerve irritation, muscle strain or muscle tension.

Learn more about: Pain on inhalation and Stinging on inhalation

Is that a sign of pregnancy?

Breast tearing is a very common sign of pregnancy. After about 5 weeks, the breast changes noticeably and becomes heavier. The reason for this are hormonal changes in the body that occur with the implantation of the embryo in the uterus. The body is prepared for pregnancy, which causes the breast to grow and change. In the breast, most of the fatty tissue is converted into functional glandular tissue, which produces the mother's milk. The growth displaces the surrounding subcutaneous tissue and leads to tension and pulling.

Find out more about the following articles:

  • Pregnancy hormones
  • Pain in pregnancy
  • Pregnancy symptoms

Chest drawing of alcohol

A tug in the chest after consuming alcohol is not a cause for acute concern. Heart attacks are particularly unlikely in younger people and heart problems do not occur too quickly even after excessive alcohol consumption. Much more often, the pain is due to the stomach. Heartburn after drinking alcohol is not uncommon. This can lead to uncomfortable, diffuse chest pain. Much less often, however, the pulling in the chest can be due to the liver. After frequent stress on the liver, it can swell and press on the diaphragm. This can cause uncomfortable pain in the costal arch and is a good reason to avoid alcohol.

Tension in the chest and abdomen

Abdominal pain is another symptom of typical hormonal changes that occur with periods or pregnancy. The pulling in the breast comes about through remodeling processes in the breast or through estrogen-related water retention during the period. Mild abdominal pain can also occur at the beginning of a pregnancy. Before menstruation, these indicate shedding of uterine tissue and the start of bleeding.

Read on here: Pain during menstruation

Tension in the chest around ovulation

Breast pulling may also occur at the time of monthly ovulation. This is more of a slight chest pain that few women notice. Other signs of ovulation can be temperature fluctuations and changes in the cervical mucus, but also an increase in libido. In rare cases, the rapid drop in estrogen can even lead to ovulation bleeding. Ovulation is not to be confused with the implantation of an embryo in the uterine lining at the beginning of pregnancy. This process can become noticeable with similar symptoms.

Find out more about the topic here: Tension in the chest and ovulation

Can this be a sign of breast cancer?

In rare cases, a pull in the breast can also indicate growing breast cancer, which is the most common cancer in women.In this disease, some cells of the glandular tissue change and multiply uncontrollably. Most breast tumors are benign, that is, without metastasis or infiltrative growth. Benign tumors can, however, because of their displacing growth in the breast, press on surrounding structures and cause pulling in the breast. If pulling occurs in combination with a palpable lump in the breast, a gynecologist should be consulted to rule out malignant breast cancer.

Here you can find out more about the topic: Symptoms of breast cancer