Why am I having a sharp pain in chest when doing back extension exercises?

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I have been having pain in the center of my chest when I go into any back extension exercises. For example, doing swan exercise in Pilates I get a sharp shooting pain in the center of my chest. I was wondering if this is normal or if I need to get medical attention for this?

Disclaimer: Please note, this reply is for informational purposes only. It’s not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, physical therapist, or other qualified health provider with a medical condition.

Things to Know

  • If your symptoms could be cardiovascular or respiratory in nature, please seek immediate medical attention.
  • Physical therapy for chest pain with exercise often includes improving upper-body mobility and strength.
  • Avoid movements that cause sharp shooting pains or modify the overall range of motion to keep movement nonpainful.

Thank you for your question! Without doing an examination of your chest, we are limited in our ability to provide specific information regarding your symptoms. 

If these symptoms are occurring primarily at rest or at night, with cardiovascular activities that challenge your heart or lungs, if they do not change with position, or if they are worsening in general, we recommend seeking immediate medical attention. 

If the symptoms are movement-specific as you describe in your question, then we can provide general information regarding chest pain with back extension.

There are multiple factors that can contribute to sharp, shooting pains in the center of the chest with back extension, the most common of which include the middle and upper back, the ribs and their cartilaginous attachments into the sternum, and the muscles surrounding the sternum. 

Physical therapy for chest pain often includes improving upper-body mobility and strength using exercise and manual therapy when warranted. In general, we recommend that patients temporarily avoid movements that cause sharp shooting pains or modify the overall range of motion to make movements non-painful. 

We suggest getting an evaluation by a physical therapist to determine the cause of these symptoms and provide appropriate treatment methods to allow for a comfortable return to Pilates.

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