How Sore Are Your Chest Muscles After Heart Surgery?

By Adam Pick on August 18, 2007

Every so often I receive an email that really makes me remember my heart valve surgery experience, especially the recovery.

Some of those memories are joyful. And, some of those are…. well… not so joyful.

This blog is in response to an email that reads, “How sore are your chest muscles after heart surgery?”


Does Your Chest Hurt After Heart Surgery?


Hmmmmm. To answer that question, I have to let you know that there are many different types of heart surgery – some procedures require the sternum to be split and some heart surgeries are noninvasive that do not require “chest cracking”.

My aortic and pulmonary valve replacements surgery (the Ross Procedure) required my chest bone to be broken to give the surgeon better access to my heart.

That said, I will respond to the question about chest muscles after surgery from my own personal perspective.

Make sense?

Okay. Here goes.


Yep. That about sums it up! I could go on and on but I won’t.

So you know, I have interviewed over 100 patients about their chest muscles after heart surgery and they all basically say the same thing…

“It hurts! But, sore chest muscles after heart surgery is a small pain for a long-term gain!”

I hope this isn’t too honest. I just want to give you the patient’s perspective on the realities of heart valve surgery.

I write a lot about the recovery, chest pain and healing in my book. If you’re interested you may want to read it.

Keep on tickin!

Written by Adam Pick
- Patient & Website Founder

Adam Pick, Heart Valve Patient Advocate

Adam Pick is a heart valve patient and author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery. In 2006, Adam founded to educate and empower patients. This award-winning website has helped over 10 million people fight heart valve disease. Adam has been featured by the American Heart Association and Medical News Today.

Adam Pick is a heart valve patient and author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery. In 2006, Adam founded to educate and empower patients. This award-winning website has helped over 10 million people fight heart valve disease. Adam has been featured by the American Heart Association and Medical News Today.

Frances Scattareggia says on March 18th, 2012 at 5:16 pm

still have soreness and it is 3 1/2 months. female 79 yrs old after surgery

Ron Miller says on March 26th, 2014 at 7:44 am

I had my Aorta valve replace 2 months ago, I am pretty much recovered, exercising regularly, eating normally but my Chest muscle is really soar to the touch. mostly soft touch like it is near the skin. I rub my hand across my chest and it hurts. Didn’t get much of a response from my Cardiologist. I have the 3″ incision on my breast bone and a chest tube on the side that hurts.

Love to hear any comments on people that are maybe farther out than I.

Ron Miller

Wouter says on August 8th, 2016 at 9:13 pm

My chest muscles (Mainly left side) is killing me 6 weeks after CABG. It feels like I am pulling my chest muscle every time I am getting out off bed or a chair or any movement for that matter. Once this happened all chest muscles become locked up

Eric Werner says on August 20th, 2016 at 6:00 pm

My cabg x 4 at age 73 went extremely well, and my recovery was textbook perfect. For some months after surgery my left pectoral muscle felt bruised, a dull ache as though I’d been punched there. Not surprising, actually. Went totally away after about six mos. Now, two years out, it has returned and I suspect more intensive and ill-selected weight training to be the reason. Have been doing a lot of ab-wheel roll-ups starting from totally prone with arms fully outstretched. Also returned to some bench pressing. My kettlebell work has never resulted in this discomfort despite using relatively heavy bells (70+ lbs). I have not found any credible testimony or doc’s opinion that the heart itself (including the surrounding arteries) causes this sort of dull one-side-only pectoral discomfort, but I will check with my cardiologist. Meanwhile, although the pain is not severe – as I say, it’s dull rather than sharp – it is a source of anxiety. Expect that re-injury following recovery is at the root of the problem.

Len Scowden says on June 9th, 2017 at 12:02 pm

Mine are sore 1 yr after didn’t start till about 10 months after

Kerry says on June 22nd, 2017 at 6:14 am

I am 14 weeks Past the operation date and had a Aorta valve and 4 bypass and the last week the discomfort in my sternum and rib cage started hurting when I breath deep or move a certain way is this normal or should I make an appointment and go back to the doctor could you give me some information on this

markdouglas says on June 26th, 2017 at 7:58 pm

Im seven years past my 5x open heart surgery, and I get chest pains rather regularly — in fact, I have been to ER and doctors office several times for these pains, and THEY HAVE NOT BEEN cardiac related. I mean pretty severe pain, at that.

One give away — I hope –so show that my pains are not cardiac related, is that they are not caused by, nor do they go away, from exercise. It’s right on my chest, right above the heart, to the self of the sternum. In fact, I have it more than not have it. And I have it much worse if I do various exercises- – I can make it hurt more by squeezing my pecs as if I am trying to make muscles.

Sometimes it’s much worse than others. For example if I lift weights. If I do push ups. I might get moderate pain there for days — non stop — after that. Yet I can go on my bike rides and not croak. That’s always a positive sign.

But I have felt the pain there, and JUST to be sure, stop the bike ride and go slowly home, take an aspirin and solve the world’s problems in my head,

It’s very trying, because I can’t be sure! I ride a bike a lot, I lost 50lbs since surgery, diet and exercise. It could of course, at any time, BE cardiac related. I don’t think the doctors are up on this much, at least the ones I know. They don’t seem to have a way to tell me for sure, and they of course are never going to say “On don’t worry about that chest pain, it’s nothing”

I think it’s a torn muscle along there, or nerve damage, that was never healed, since surgery. But like my son in law – a surgeon himself — said “What if you are wrong”.

tammy derouen says on September 10th, 2017 at 7:02 pm

I am a 42 yr old female. I am 5 wks post op from cabg surgery and i am having some stabbing pain in. The right side of my chest is this normal

Betty Sullivan Sorge says on September 22nd, 2017 at 3:11 am

Thank u for an explanation! I am 3 weeks post op, and the sternum pain has pretty well subsided, but when i COUGH (which is frequent b/c sinus drip allergy) my left pectoralis cramps, which really hurts. I too was thinking it was some kind of tear. Is the muscle cut at all during surgery??? It doesn’t seem like it should have to be but who knows😳😳😳

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