Chest tightness after climbing


Original Post
DamonV · Aug 7, 2016 · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2016 · Points: 0
Hi all. I wonder if anyone's experienced the following, and what you've done about it...

I've been climbing for a few years, some toprope, some lead, some indoor, some outdoor. I really enjoy the climbing itself, but have noticed that for up to a couple days afterwards I don't feel as well. A bit out of it, breathing shallowly, and when I take a deep breath it actually hurts a bit, and my chest (diaphragm?) hurts when I try to stretch out the front of my torso. And I don't know if this is cause or effect, but there seems to be a persistent low level anxiety during those days.

If I were to guess at a cause, I'd say the stress of being in physically or mentally uncomfortable positions affects my breathing and tightness in the chest area, which persists afterwards causing my breathing to become shallower which increases anxiety. And it takes a surprisingly long time to get back to normal. I don't seem to have the same reaction to running or swimming.

Any insights and tips to help me prevent or recover from this would be much appreciated. I hate to think climbing makes me feel bad (afterwards)!

Chris Owen · Aug 7, 2016 · Big Bear Lake · Joined Jan 2002 · Points: 9,498
First thing I'd do is see a cardiologist and go get a stress test.

FrankPS · Aug 7, 2016 · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 15
What Chris said. See a doctor. Or, you can ask a bunch of climber's a medical question. Your choice.

mediocre · Aug 7, 2016 · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2013 · Points: 0
Are you dizzy while this is going on? Do you feel like you're going to pass out? Do you feel palpitations in your heart?
Probably don't need to see a cardiologist right away, as long as your answer to all of those questions is a no. If you're not getting this chest tightness while running or any other aerobic activities my guess is that it's not heart related.
Although, the heart is way more complex than issues like bolted anchors and memorial plaques, and everyone knows how well climbers handle those questions.
Go see a doctor.

DamonV · Aug 7, 2016 · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2016 · Points: 0
Thanks. @mediocre, "no" to all of those, but yeah sound like I should see a doctor regardless!

christopher adams · Aug 7, 2016 · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 0
DamonV wrote:Hi all. I wonder if anyone's experienced the following, and what you've done about it... I've been climbing for a few years, some toprope, some lead, some indoor, some outdoor. I really enjoy the climbing itself, but have noticed that for up to a couple days afterwards I don't feel as well. A bit out of it, breathing shallowly, and when I take a deep breath it actually hurts a bit, and my chest (diaphragm?) hurts when I try to stretch out the front of my torso. And I don't know if this is cause or effect, but there seems to be a persistent low level anxiety during those days. If I were to guess at a cause, I'd say the stress of being in physically or mentally uncomfortable positions affects my breathing and tightness in the chest area, which persists afterwards causing my breathing to become shallower which increases anxiety. And it takes a surprisingly long time to get back to normal. I don't seem to have the same reaction to running or swimming. Any insights and tips to help me prevent or recover from this would be much appreciated. I hate to think climbing makes me feel bad (afterwards)!
I don't think you need to go as far as a stress test. An electrocardiogram is easier to perform and less invasive, and is the first line diagnostic tool for heart/pulmonary issues.

I'm less inclined to think you're having that kind of problem anyway given what you're describing. You might have a hiatal hernia, a condition where the upper part of your stomach works its way through the diaphragm. Climbing can exacerbate that condition because of the amount of core tension you need to do difficult moves.

Hiatal hernias have similar symptoms to the physical manifestations of anxiety as well, which you said you experience after climbing.

Do you frequently get heartburn/acid reflux? Have the sensation that something is stuck in your throat? If you're answering yes to either of those questions, make your first stop a GI doc instead.

Cheers and good luck.

Mike Lane · Aug 7, 2016 · Centennial, CO · Joined Jan 2006 · Points: 210
I had throbbing chest pains after a hike up to North Table once. Reported it to my doctor, had to take a stress test, which not only did I sail through without much strain or sweat but the EKGs were ok too. A year later I was rushed into a catheter lab and got 2 stents.
Never blow off chest pains.

DamonV · Aug 7, 2016 · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2016 · Points: 0
@chris, thanks, sounds like you might be on to something - definitely more heartburn than I care for

Jim Turner · Aug 8, 2016 · Lakewood, CO · Joined Jun 2012 · Points: 90
One possibility is tightness in the middle back muscles and/or tightness in the psoas muscles, both of which could tighten in a hard climb.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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