Do You Get Chest Pain with Emphysema?

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Emphysema is a condition in which the alveoli (air sacs) of the lung get damaged. The damaged alveoli can make it more difficult for breathing.

Shortness of breath is the main symptom. The symptom usually flares up on exertion. But as the disease becomes advanced, feeling of breathlessness may also occur while you’re at rest. Additional symptoms may include wheezing and cough.

How about chest pain?

Chest tightness or pain is not the common symptom of emphysema. But it can be associated with this chronic lung disease, especially if the disease is poorly controlled. It usually occurs more often during periods of breathlessness or when other symptoms of the disease flare up.

There are a number of reasons of why emphysema may lead to tightness or pain in the chest. Some of these reasons are outlined below.

The enlargement of the lungs

The damaged alveoli in emphysema occur gradually. Over time large air pockets develop in the lungs, making it difficult to breathe out.

The lungs can slowly enlarge, becoming blown up. This will put more pressure and tightness in the chest. Depending on the severity of the disease, it can be quite painful or even may be aggravated just by walking.

Emphysema may also cause a condition called barrel-shaped chest, a condition in which the shape of the chest gradually changes and resembles the shape of a barrel. Advanced stage of the disease may also cause collapsed lung, another reason to blame for chest pain.


Although the link between emphysema and osteoporosis remains puzzling, but in fact osteoporosis is quite common in people with COPD! And osteoporosis may be another thing to blame for pain with COPD.

Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones become fragile, easier to break. With osteoporosis, the structures (bones) of the chest walls are not as strong as usual. It also can be another risk factor of developing barrel-shaped chest.

What else?

Extreme bouts of breathlessness and coughing may lead to muscle strains in the chest or even contribute to cause broken rib (especially true if the patient also has osteoporosis).

Furthermore, the chronic symptoms of the disease could lead to excessive anxiety. The stress of struggling just to breathe may affect your pain threshold, making you more sensitive to any type of pain.