ZocdocAnswersWhy is the first breath painful?

Question

Why is the first breath painful?

When I wake up in the morning, or if I wake in the middle of the night, when I take my first breath, it can be very uncomfortable or painful. It's not a sharp pain, it just feels like a dull aching bad feeling. Why is this? I'm a healthy guy, and I don't have other lung problems.

Answer

There are several causes for pain with deep breathing. Most of these will cause pain that is accentuated with the first breath, so that fact that this occurs mostly with the first breath is not as significant as the fact that you have pain at all with breathing. Several other symptoms are important. For example if you have a chronic, nagging cough then several possibilities include an infection of the lung, such as a pneumonia, or an inflammation of the lining of the lung, called pleuritis. Often the workup of these possibilities will include a physical exam by your doctor followed by some basic blood work and a chest x-ray. Another possibility, more common if you do not have cough, is costochondritis. Costochondritis is an inflammation of the joints inside the ribs, caused often by the same sorts of viruses that cause the common cold. This inflammation causes pain with deep breaths and also pain when pressing over the ribs, but there is not cough. It can be treated with antiinflammatory drugs like ibuprofen. There are a few other more serious causes, such as a blood clot. If you have shortness of breath or chest pain, these are serious signs that should be evaluated by your doctor or an emergency room as soon as possible.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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