5+ Reasons Why Your Chest Hurts After Swimming

Chest pain after swimming may be due to muscle spasms, overuse, stress, bronchoconstriction, or pulmonary edema, requiring rest and medical attention.

why your chest hurts after swimming

Do you love to swim? It’s one of the best forms of aerobic exercise because it burns calories and works your whole body. It’s also great for lung and heart health. On top of all of that, swimming is fun. It certainly beats running on a treadmill.

You may feel some pain after your swimming session. A little bit of pain and tightness is normal after any exercise activity. However, if the pain is severe, it could be a sign of a serious issue. 

Below are a few reasons why you might experience chest pain after swimming. It’s possible it could be nothing at all, but it’s also possible it could be a serious problem that should be checked by a doctor.

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Chest Muscle Spasms

Does your chest pain feel like a twitch or pulse in your pectoral muscles? This could be from muscle spasms, which often happen when muscles are worked hard for the first time in a long time. 

Swimming can put a lot of strain on your chest muscles, especially if you’re doing long strokes like freestyle or breaststroke. If you’re new to exercise or new to swimming, the strain may be a bit much for your pecs. 

The spasms are simply your muscles reacting to the resistance and strain they just faced. This shouldn’t be cause for concern. Simply stretch well before and after workouts and swims, and be sure to get rest. Over time, your muscles will adapt and the spasms will stop.


Are you a frequent swimmer or athlete? If so, your chest pain could simply be a need for rest and relaxation. You can actually create small tears in your pecs and other chest muscles with frequent swimming. That’s ok, as those small tears fuel new muscle growth.

However, rest is an important part of the muscle growth process. When you rest, you allow those small tears to heal and create new muscle tissue.

That’s what causes your muscles to expand. If you’re feeling chest pain after several days of working out or swimming in a row, it may be time to take a break.


Swimming is a fun cardio exercise, but it can also be restrictive on your breathing, especially if you’re performing strokes that require you to keep your face in the water, like freestyle.

If you’re stressed or have anxiety about something, you may already be dealing with shortness of breath. Swimming may not be the best form of exercise in that state of mind since it requires focused and disciplined breathing.

If your chest is burning right after swimming, it could be that you just didn’t get enough air during your swim. Try taking a break and calming your mind before getting back in the water (and try the middle lane).

Excercise-induced Bronchoconstriction

Exercise-induced bronchoconstriction, also known as EIB, happens when your bronchial airway narrows during your swim. This is common for people with asthma or other respiratory conditions, but anyone can be affected by it.

It feels like burning in your chest and lungs for up to an hour after you swim. When the bronchial airway narrows, less oxygen reaches your lungs.

That creates a burning sensation until your airway opens and your lungs can start operating at normal capacity.

If this is a one-time occurrence, it could just be a random thing. If it happens repeatedly, you should see a doctor.

They may want you to use an inhaler before or during your swimming sessions so you can keep the oxygen pumping.

You also may want to change your swim session to include shorter bursts of higher-intensity swimming. That could allow you to take more breaks and catch up on your breathing.

If you don’t address the issue, it will likely increase in intensity and duration until it reaches a point where it’s unbearable for you to swim. 

Swimming-induced pulmonary edema

Another possibility is something called swimming-induced pulmonary edema, or SIPE. This happens when the lack of consistent breathing and oxygen causes your blood to leak its red blood cells from your lungs to other organs. If that sounds serious, it is.

SIPE can lead to symptoms far beyond a burning sensation in your chest. It can cause a crackling sound in your voice.

In serious cases, it can cause you to cough up a pink foamy discharge. If that happens, you should seek medical attention.

SIPE symptoms can last up to a week. If they’re a regular occurrence, you should seek medical attention. Again, an inhaler may be helpful. It’s also possible that swimming may not be a good form of aerobic exercise for you.

Your doctor may be able to refer you to a respiratory therapist who can help you expand your lung capacity. That could help you swim for longer periods without issues.

However, if that doesn’t work, swimming could be a dangerous activity and you may need to find an alternative.

Swimming can be a fun and healthy way to exercise, but there’s no doubt that it comes with risks. If you are swimming long distances without a break, you’re putting a strain on your lungs. That can lead to a wide range of chest pains and issues.

Be sure to take frequent breaks so you can catch up on your breathing. Also try different strokes, like a backstroke or a shallow breaststroke, where your face can be out of the water for longer periods. 

If chest pain is a regular problem after swimming, be sure to talk to your doctor. They can give you tips on how to build up your lung capacity and even refer you to a therapist who can help further.

However, if the pains don’t stop, it may be time to find another form of exercise. Chest pains can be a serious symptom of lung and heart issues.

An activity that provides more oxygen, like running or an elliptical, could be a safer option. Talk to your doctor for further guidance and suggestions.

More FAQs

Is it normal to have chest pain after swimming?

It is common to experience chest pain after swimming, which can be attributed to various factors such as SIPE (Swimming-Induced Pulmonary Edema). SIPE encompasses cases of pulmonary edema that occur during water sports activities, including surface swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, or breath-hold diving. Symptoms of SIPE typically include difficulty breathing (dyspnea), chest pain or tightness, coughing, and occasionally coughing up blood (hemoptysis).

Does swimming affect chest?

Swimming does indeed affect the chest muscles. Regardless of the stroke you choose, your chest muscles will be engaged during the activity. However, if you opt for the butterfly stroke, your abdominal muscles will receive an intense workout like never before.

Can chlorine cause tight chest?

Chlorine can cause a burning sensation in the nose, throat, lungs, and eyes, as well as coughing and the production of white to pink-tinged fluid, which may be delayed by a few hours. Additionally, it can lead to chest tightness.

Does dry drowning cause chest pain?

Dry drowning can cause chest pain, along with other symptoms such as coughing, vomiting, fever, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, and lethargy. The symptoms of dry drowning typically manifest immediately after a drowning incident, while symptoms of secondary drowning may appear within 1-24 hours after water enters the lungs.

What hurts after swimming?

After swimming, swimmers often experience neck and shoulder injuries, which can include irritation and inflammation in the shoulders.

Is swimming good for the lungs?

Swimming is beneficial for the lungs as it can enhance lung capacity and breath endurance. A study conducted in 2015 compared the lung volume of swimmers to sedentary individuals and professional football players, and found that swimmers had larger and more efficient lungs in processing the air they breathe.

How do you treat swimmer’s lungs?

The treatment for swimmer’s lungs involves promptly removing the affected individual from the water, providing a warm environment, and removing any tight-fitting wetsuit if worn. Depending on the situation, additional supportive measures such as oxygen therapy, diuretics, and β2 agonists may be considered.

How do I know if there is water in my lungs?

To determine if there is water in your lungs, you can look out for symptoms such as coughing up blood or bloody froth, experiencing difficulty in breathing while lying down (known as orthopnea), and feeling a sense of “air hunger” or “drowning” (referred to as “paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea” if it causes you to wake up 1 to 2 hours after falling asleep and struggle to catch your breath).

Why does my chest hurt after getting out of the pool?

After getting out of the pool, your chest may hurt due to inhaling pool water, which can lead to chemical pneumonitis. This condition involves inflammation of the lungs caused by harmful chemicals present in the water. Symptoms typically appear within 1 to 24 hours after the incident and can include persistent coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain, lethargy, fever, and unusual mood changes. According to Osinski, these are common indicators of chemical pneumonitis.

Can swimming cause heart pain?

Swimming under water or with your face in the water for extended periods can place excessive strain on your heart, potentially leading to heart pain. It is important to avoid holding your breath while exercising, including swimming, to prevent this. If you encounter symptoms such as chest pain, palpitation, light-headedness, or general discomfort while swimming, it is crucial to cease the activity immediately.

Can swimming affect your heart?

Swimming can indeed have an impact on your heart. By enhancing circulation and cardiac efficiency, swimming can lower the chances of developing cardiovascular disease. Moreover, it can also enhance the quantity, size, and effectiveness of mitochondria in your body, further improving heart health and reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Where does it hurt after swimming?

After swimming, swimmers may experience muscle soreness and fatigue, which typically occurs a day or two after the session. This condition is known as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS).

Why does my chest hurt after swimming in cold water?

After swimming in cold water, your chest may hurt due to the fight-or-flight response triggered by the shock of the cold water against your skin. This response causes the adrenal glands to release additional stress hormones, including adrenaline, which leads to the narrowing of blood vessels supplying the skin. While this conserves heat, it also increases the amount of blood being directed to the chest, putting additional strain on the heart.

Why do chest muscles hurt?

Chest muscle pain is often experienced due to overuse, resulting from activities such as lifting heavy objects or participating in sports that involve repetitive motion like gymnastics, rowing, tennis, or golf. This can lead to strains and injuries in the chest muscles.

Why do my lungs feel sore after swimming?

My lungs may feel sore after swimming due to a combination of exercise and exposure to cold water. This can lead to pulmonary edema, which is characterized by an increase in pulmonary capillary pressure caused by an increase in cardiac preload and afterload. However, it is important to note that most cases of pulmonary edema improve spontaneously and quickly, with no recurrence of symptoms.

How does swimming affect the heart?

Swimming affects the heart by improving blood pressure and heart rate. The act of swimming enhances heart rate, leading to increased blood supply throughout the body. This heightened circulation helps alleviate numbness and tingling sensations caused by inadequate blood flow in specific areas.

What happens if you inhale too much water while swimming?

Inhaling excessive amounts of water while swimming can result in damage to the lung sacs and subsequent swelling. This swelling can disrupt the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide, potentially leading to respiratory distress syndrome several hours later. If left untreated, this condition could have fatal consequences.

What happens if you get water in your lungs while swimming?

If water enters your lungs while swimming, it can lead to pulmonary edema if a significant amount of water is not expelled and instead irritates the lung lining, causing fluid buildup. However, in most cases, coughing can help clear a small amount of water aspirated into the lungs.

How do you know if you have water in your lungs?

You can determine if you have water in your lungs by observing certain symptoms. These symptoms may include coughing up blood or bloody froth, experiencing difficulty breathing when lying down (known as orthopnea), and feeling a sensation of “air hunger” or “drowning” (referred to as “paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea” if it causes you to wake up 1 to 2 hours after falling asleep and struggle to catch your breath).

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