When you quit smoking tobacco, withdrawal symptoms like chest pain or tightness are fairly common. This happens due to nicotine cravings, and the pain can range from mild to severe.
Since smoking can cause chest pain in the first place, you may be surprised to experience pain or tightness after you quit. But this is a fairly common withdrawal symptom that will resolve as your body continues to heal.
Despite the pain, there are many short- and long-term health benefits linked to quitting. Short-term withdrawal symptoms like irritation or issues sleeping are replaced with a host of benefits like a healthier heart, lower carbon monoxide levels in your blood, and better circulation.
Keep in mind that since chest pain can sometimes signal a heart attack, you should always seek emergency care if you have pain that’s sudden, severe, or persists for more than 15 minutes (more on this later).
Here’s what else to know about any chest pain you may experience when you quit.
A sudden lack of nicotine in your bloodstream can cause a host of side effects, including strong cravings, issues concentrating, and sometimes, chest pain.
When your body is accustomed to a steady dose of nicotine, a sudden lack of it can cause your body to act up. You might feel chest pain, tightness, and cough more than usual, for instance. This could be due to anxiety or stress.
Smoking regularly also congests your respiratory system. When you quit, your body begins to repair itself. This may cause increased mucus production as your body tries to expel the buildup in your lungs.
When you smoke regularly, the cells that line your blood vessels are almost always inflamed. When you stop, your body is so accustomed to the inflammation that it may become tight and tense in response to the change. This can cause pain, but it’s only temporary.
Withdrawal symptoms like chest pain can last for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, according to the
Physiological symptoms like chest pain or tightness shouldn’t last long. Other symptoms, like anxiety or depression, may persist for longer.
Quitting smoking is a unique journey for everyone, so you won’t necessarily experience the same symptoms as someone else.
Some potential symptoms include:
If you haven’t already, you may want to talk with a healthcare professional about nicotine replacement therapy. This involves using nicotine gum, lozenges, patches, or other products to help manage withdrawal symptoms, including cravings.
Since anxiety may be a potential trigger for chest pain, easing stress may soothe some symptoms.
Some ideas include:
- engaging in light exercise you enjoy, like walking, dancing, or biking
- relaxing in a comfortable, peaceful environment
- doing breathing techniques, yoga, or meditation
- reducing your caffeine intake
- joining a support group for others quitting smoking
- avoiding triggers (like where you used to smoke)
Most of the time, chest pain after quitting smoking isn’t a cause for serious concern. But chest pain can occasionally signal a heart attack, regardless of whether you smoke.
Seek emergency care if you have any of the following symptoms:
- chest pain or discomfort that feels like a squeezing feeling or intense pressure
- pain that radiates from the chest to the shoulder, arms, neck, or jaw
- cold sweats
- difficulty breathing
- symptoms that last for more than 15 minutes
Quitting smoking can cause many withdrawal symptoms, chest pain included. This is a temporary response as your body heals from the trauma of smoking.
If your chest pain is sudden, severe, or accompanied by other symptoms like pain radiating in your upper body, vomiting, or difficulty breathing, seek emergency care.