Pain on the left side when breathing in
September 19, 2006 10:38 PM   Subscribe

Breathing-in feels like your lung is snagging on a rib..

.. when I was younger, I used to get this situation, where if you filled your lung to about 80% capacity (or more) there would be pain, on the left side, like it was like the lung was stabbed on the ribs or similar. Generally on the left side, around the area of the first to third rib (counting from the bottom). Would not last very long (minutes, for me), and was more an irritation that anything else. If you breathe shallow there is no pain.

This has since then stopped happening for me, sometime around my late 20s, but my brother still gets it, and sometimes seems quite bad (enough to take painkillers). I have my gallbladder pulled out around then, but I assume that isn't related.

I know my brother had an Ultrasound scan, but it came up empty. Anyone else have any ideas of what kind of checks he could do?
posted by lundman to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Could be 'Pericordial Catch Syndrome,' an annoying but (as far as I know) non-harmful condition.
posted by jtron at 11:04 PM on September 19, 2006

Response by poster:
My brother is a farmer, plays icehockey and rugga, I could not think of a person more active in my family.

But since it seems to be random, it can affect his work, and as a farmer you can't really take sick-days.

I think it happens to a degree where he is clearly wanting to do something about it, whereas for me, it was rare, and soft-term, that I would not have done anything about it.
posted by lundman at 11:09 PM on September 19, 2006

I get it once every two weeks or so. I can make it go away instantly if I sort of raise my arms straight out and do a body twist/squirm/thing. As I've gotten older, it's gotten less painful and frequent. My doctor said it's not harmful.
posted by sian at 11:11 PM on September 19, 2006

This is a side stich. This is caused by the way you breath and the way your body's organs are positioned when you walk.

Easy way to get rid of them. If the stitch is on your left-side, exhale as your right foot is hitting the ground. If the stich is on your right-side, exhale as your left foot is hitting the ground.

Yea, I was skeptical too, until this worked! Admittedly, it took a while to coordinate breathing and stepping....
posted by unexpected at 11:23 PM on September 19, 2006 [3 favorites]

I noticed this too. It hasn't happened in a number of years, but in my twenties I experienced it. I haven't tried unexpectend's recipes but I can tell you it's not unfamiliar and you get over it.
posted by Sparx at 2:23 AM on September 20, 2006

I used to get the same thing as well. A sure-fire way to get rid of it is twist your torso from side to side (such that the plane of your torso is almost perpendicular to the plane of your legs). Doing this once always does the trick. Works sitting down too.
posted by whataboutben at 3:01 AM on September 20, 2006

From what you said I don't think you're talking about the exercise related stitch which seems to be the main topic of conversation here, but instead a severe, sudden, random pain as you fill your lungs.

I used to get this a bit, I'd breath in and get the ice pick between the ribs sensation, gasp out immediately and then slowly breath in again. Usually the pain was gone in another breath or two.

I've heard this referred to as adhesion, the theory being that tissues in the lung stick together briefly, and as you inhale they get stretched. You exhale, breath in slowly, and they separate as normal. Is it true? No idea, but that's how the pain feels to me, like something's stuck briefly.

My mother also used to get it, and we both are mildly athsmatic. Whatever it was it seemed to go away when my childhood athsma mostly vanished.
posted by tomble at 3:35 AM on September 20, 2006

I agree with tomble, this sounds like a different sensation than an exercise related side-stitch.

I've experience something that feels like the tissue in your chest is 'catching' on a sharp bit of bone. I presume this is also what the poster is feeling.

I've always wondered what this was and don't know anyone else who has experienced it.
posted by lyam at 5:30 AM on September 20, 2006

Pleurisy pain? IANAD but sounds like something that used to happen to me, and that's what the doc said it was. He told me it wasn't serious or anything to worry about, though the above website indicates it could be a sign of some other problems.
posted by Soulbee at 5:34 AM on September 20, 2006

I get that sensation the day after I smoke too much. It hurts like hell but if I breathe through the pain it goes away after four deep breaths or so. Could smoking have anything to do with it? Or pollution of any sort in the air?
posted by mustcatchmooseandsquirrel at 7:00 AM on September 20, 2006

I used to get this a lot when I was a kid, and it's definitely totally different than the stitch you get in your side from exercising. I asked my doctor about it once, though, and he said that it was just a muscle cramp and that it was nothing to worry about. My best solution for getting rid of it was to sloooooowly take as deep a breath as I could, which seemed to stretch things out until I could finally breathe normally again instead of just in shallow gasps.
posted by MsMolly at 7:06 AM on September 20, 2006

I second 'Pericardial Catch Syndrome'.
posted by mercurysm2 at 7:44 AM on September 20, 2006

I get what MsMolly is referring to. It happens every couple of months, and what she recommends works. Not an answer, but a thanks for asking about this so I could read that other people get it.
posted by hoborg at 8:15 AM on September 20, 2006

Also, you could show him an article about the pain we're describing and see if it matches.
posted by hoborg at 8:51 AM on September 20, 2006

Response by poster:
Definitely not a stitch from exercise, quite different pain. I personally don't remember getting it ever while being active. Most frequently when doing something like watch tv, or lie in bed reading a book.

But thanks for the suggestions, it's given starting points to further search for.
posted by lundman at 7:20 PM on September 20, 2006

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