COVID-19 Symptom: Chest Pain
Written by Ada’s Medical Knowledge Team
- Chest pain is a reported sign of COVID-19
- Muscular pain, cardiovascular and lung issues are some of the potential causes of chest pain with COVID-19
- Chest pain can sometimes linger after the acute phase of infection with the virus
- Chest pain can be caused by other conditions, so it’s important to talk to your doctor to ascertain the cause of chest pain.
Chest pain can be one of the more worrying symptoms of the COVID-19 infection - but it’s a symptom that is regularly reported. Chest pain can occur in both mild and severe cases of COVID-19 and can manifest in various ways, ranging from a mild ache to a sharp, stabbing, or crushing sensation.
Other symptoms of COVID-19, such as cough, fever, shortness of breath, fatigue, and muscle aches at the onset of the disease often accompany chest pain associated with COVID-19. However, COVID chest pain is a frequent symptom of long COVID and can persist long after the infection has cleared.
In some cases, COVID chest pain can be a sign of an emergency, which can mean you're developing severe complications. That's why knowing more about this symptom and when to seek emergency help is essential
What does COVID-19 chest pain feel like?
Chest pain is a possible sign of COVID-19. Some studies suggest that up to 11% of people feel chest pain while infected with the coronavirus. This number increases to 89% for people with long-COVID, which makes it one of the most persistent symptoms that people experience after a COVID infection. 1 2
The chest pain you feel with a COVID infection can be experienced differently, as the pain can feel dull, sharp, or like a burning sensation. COVID chest pain can also be felt as a tightness in the chest. Both the left and right sides of the chest can be affected by chest pain caused by the coronavirus.
Chest pain with COVID might be an emergency sign indicating that you need medical treatment. You should especially seek medical attention if the pain is persistent or if you feel pressure in your chest. Other emergency warning signs with COVID-19 include: 3
- Trouble breathing
- Newly developed confusion
- Inability to stay awake
- Pale, gray or blue-colored skin
What is the cause of COVID-19 chest pain?
Chest pain can have various causes. Usually, the chest pain can feel different depending on what is causing it. The cause of your chest pain also determines whether or not your pain is an emergency and what the best treatment strategy would be.
- Muscular pain. If you experience muscular pain, your chest may feel sore to the touch. The pain may also get worse when you’re moving around or stretching. This pain can also be caused by frequent coughing, as this irritates the muscles between your ribs. Muscular pain due to the coronavirus can cause upper back and chest pain.
- Lung problems. Coronavirus often affects the lungs, and some complications may cause chest pain. This may be the case if you have an inflammation of the lining of your lungs, called the pleura, due to the infection. A pulmonary embolism, a blood clot in your lungs, may also cause chest pain. This pain is usually sharp and goes together with shortness of breath.
- Cardiovascular problems. Cardiovascular problems. The effects of the coronavirus on the heart are still being studied. Still, studies suggest that cardiovascular conditions such as reduced blood flow to the heart muscle and pericarditis, which is an inflammation of the lining of the heart, are possible complications of COVID-19 infection. Problems of the heart and the blood vessels often cause chest pain and often go together with other symptoms such as heart palpitations, fatigue, shortness of breath, a rapid or irregular heartbeat or changes in blood pressure. Chest pain related to cardiovascular problems can present itself as a tight or heavy feeling you feel across the chest. This feeling can spread to your neck, jaw, or arms.
How long does COVID chest pain last?
The duration of COVID chest pain can vary depending on the severity of your infection and what causes the pain. For some people, chest pain associated with COVID-19 may be a mild symptom that lasts only for a few minutes. In other cases, chest pain may persist for few days, several weeks or longer.
If a sharp pain persists for more than 15 minutes, then you should seek emergency medical attention to investigate what’s causing your chest pain. You should especially seek medical attention if your chest pain accompanies vomiting, sweating, feeling sick, or shortness of breath.
Persistent chest pain, which is more like pressure or tightness, has been reported by patients even a year after the initial COVID infection. 7
If you experience persistent chest pain after COVID and your doctor diagnoses you with long COVID-19, a treatment strategy may be arranged to help you manage your symptoms or underlying condition.
What else can cause chest pain?
Chest pain can be caused by several other conditions besides COVID, such as: 8
- Heartburn or indigestion
- Painful muscles of the chest due to exercise
- Chest injury
- Anxiety or panic attacks
- Conditions of the heart such as pericarditis, angina, or heart attack.
As chest pain may be caused by the heart or by an infection of the lungs, it’s important to seek medical help when you’re experiencing chest pain to rule out medical conditions that require emergency intervention.
How to treat chest pain from COVID?
If COVID causes your chest pain, then treatment for COVID might be necessary. Additional treatment to relieve the chest pain may be provided, depending on the specific cause of your chest pain. These can include: 9
- Non steroidal anti-inflammatory medications. These medications can reduce swelling and ease pain.
- Muscle relaxants. This class of drugs can help provide short-term relief.
- Intercostal nerve blocks. This is a quick procedure where the nerves between the ribs (intercostal nerves) are blocked under ultrasonic guidance, using a mixture of local anesthetic and a steroid.
- Acetaminophen. An analgesic that can also relieve pain.
Treatment for your chest pain associated with COVID-19 will be individualized based on your medical history, underlying health conditions, and severity of symptoms.
Chest pain is a known sign of the COVID-19. While chest pain with COVID will typically only last during the acute phase of the virus, generally 2-4 weeks, it’s also a known symptom of long COVID. Because chest pain can be the warning of an emergency, familiarizing yourself with this symptom can help you understand when to seek medical intervention. Of course, if your chest pain persists or causes concern, it’s best to consult your physician.
Q: What does COVID chest pain feel like?
Chest pain can be experienced in various ways, ranging from a mild ache to a sharp, stabbing, or intense burning sensation. In the case of COVID, chest discomfort may manifest as a feeling of tightness in the chest, which could be attributed to lung inflammation.
Q: Is chest pain a sign of COVID?
While chest pain is a prevalent symptom of COVID-19, experiencing this symptom alone does not necessarily indicate that you have the virus. Various issues can cause chest pain, including cardiac problems or non-cardiac conditions such as gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD), strained chest muscles, or even panic attacks.
Q: How long does COVID chest pain last?
The duration of chest pain associated with COVID varies from person to person. Your COVID chest pain symptoms may only last as long as the infection - for 1 or 2 weeks. You could also develop chest symptoms that persist for 3 months or longer.
Q: Where is COVID chest pain felt?
Where you feel COVID chest pain depends on the underlying issue of the pain. General pain can be felt anywhere in the chest.
Q: Is it normal to have chest pain after COVID?
Unfortunately, chest pain is a common symptom of long COVID. In some studies, chest pain has persisted for over a year after the infection.
Q: How do you treat chest pain from COVID?
In addition to treating the underlying cause, getting some rest and avoiding strenuous activity can help relieve the pain., you may be prescribed analgesics or muscle relaxants to help with the chest pain. If your chest pain persists, a doctor can also inject a steroid into the chest wall to relieve pain.