“Deep Breathing Pain After Open Heart Surgery?” Asks Bruce

Bruce just sent me an interesting question about chest pain related to deep breathing after heart valve surgery.

His email reads, “Hi Adam, I’m ten weeks into recovery and getting a little nervous – hopefully, for no reason. My surgeon tells me my mitral valve surgery went perfect and that my mitral prolapse is fixed.  But, I’m having a lot of chest pain. Specifically, it hurts to take deep breaths. As an active 62-year old, I notice it most during walks as my heart rate increases and I start to breathe heavier. Any thoughts? Thanks, Bruce”

Bruce’s question brings back a distinct memory from my early recovery. In fact, deep breathing pain was one of my biggest complaints during cardiac rehab classes. I would be peddaling away on the exercise bike when a sharp, cramp-like pain would flare-up across my sternum and rib cage.

I’d say to Debbie, my cardiac rehab nurse, “Is something wrong with my sternum? I’m feeling a lot of pain when I take deep breaths during exercise?” Debbie reassured me that everything was fine and that it might take some more time for the inside of my upper body to heal and adjust given the trauma of open heart surgery.

Me – Riding The Bike At Cardiac Rehab

Ultimately, Debbie was 100% right.

So you know, I’m just getting back from a 30-minute swim… It been three years now since my surgery. Guess what? No chest pain during exercise! 🙂

That said, I would suggest to Bruce that breathing pain after surgery can be common among patients. However, should the pain persist or remain uncomfortable, please visit your surgeon to confirm there are no other issues with your recovery from open heart surgery.

Keep on tickin!

Adam Pick
Written by Adam Pick

Adam Pick is a patient, author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery and the founder of HeartValveSurgery.com.

To learn how Adam has helped millions of people with heart valve disease, watch Adam's video, subscribe to his free newsletter, or visit his Facebook, or Twitter pages.

  • Tina-marie

    Hi John
    It has been 20 months since my open heart surgery and when I saw your post it reminded me of days gone by …lol
    I have the same numbness in my right leg and am now having physiotherapy for it as its a condition called Meralgia Paraesthetica and it is caused by a severed or trapped nerve which runs alongside the femoral vein.
    This is quite common after heart surgery .
    I quite understand the pain in your ribs and back and I found light upper body exercise helps for this as they cut through a lot of nerves.
    I had a cream from my doctoer for my wound which helped with the sensation and tightness as it heals I also found silicone scar strips worked wonders after you are healed
    I hope you feel better soon
    Thinking of you Tina-marie

  • Sev

    Hi!! I am a 14 yr old female and I had open heart surgery 5 weeks ago to repair my valve and whenever I lie down, I get sharp, stabbing pain across my rib cage and sternum near to my right breast. Last night, around 3AM I had to get up and sit for 10 minutes because the pain was too much for me and I was struggling to breathe. However I heard a pop cracking noise near the rib cage where the pain was and the pain completely went away. Is this normal? I haven’t contacted my doctor yet either and I’m getting worried because right now I am struggling to sleep because of it. Many thanks 🙂

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