Why Do My Lungs Hurt?

Technically, your lungs can’t really “hurt”. That’s because the lungs don’t contain any pain receptors.

What most people describe as lung pain is pain in some other organ.

When your lungs hurt, it’s probably due to strained intercostal muscles, although it could also be something more serious.

Below, we’ll show you the top causes of your symptom.

1. Pleurisy

why do my lungs hurt?The pleura is a thin membrane that surrounds the lungs.

Its purpose to provide a slippery “cushion” between the lungs and other organs (like the meninges in the CVS).

Like any tissue in the body, the pleura can become inflamed. The official medical term for this is pleurisy.

The inflammation can make it feel like you’ve got liquid in your lungs. This can be painful and cause you to dry cough.

Pleurisy is quite common in the United States and other parts of the world.

If you’re asking the question, “Why do my lungs hurt?” then pleurisy may be the answer.

Summary: Pleurisy is when the membrane that surrounds the lungs becomes inflamed, oftentimes leading to pain. 

2. Asthma

Another potential cause of lung pain is asthma. This is a chronic disease that affects the airways in the lungs.

The bronchial tubes are the tubes where air enters and exits the lungs. Normally, these tubes aren’t constricted (they let air freely pass through).

But in people with asthma, the bronchial tubes become constricted, making it difficult to breath. The person may wheeze, cough, and have shortness of breath.

People who are otherwise healthy may develop asthma whenever they are doing physical activity.

Others can have asthma attacks when they aren’t exercising. It depends on the individual.

If your lungs hurt all the time, then visit a doctor to rule out asthma.

Summary: Asthma is a chronic disease that effects the bronchial tubes in the lungs (it causes them to constrict, reducing airflow).

3. Pulmonary Embolism

Pulmonary embolisms are clots that make their way to the lung. If the clot is very large, then it can result in instantaneous death. Usually, the clot forms in a different part of the body.

It then dislodges from its original location, travels through the bloodstream, and eventually makes its way to the lungs.

If the clot is large enough, it can restrict the diffusion of oxygen and carbon dioxide, leading to death.

Pulmonary embolisms are life-threatening medical conditions that require emergency medical help.

Aside from your lungs hurting, you may also experience an accelerated heartbeat, have shortness of breath, and more.

Summary: If you suspect that you’re having a pulmonary embolism then visit a hospital right away.

4. Lung Cancer

Another possibility for your lung pain is cancer. Cancer is the uncontrolled growth and division of cells.

The frequency by which cells divide is heavily controlled by the body.

When this system goes out of whack, and cells can freely divide, then cancer can happen.

Some common symptoms of lung cancer include coughing up blood, shortness of breath, and weight loss.

Unfortunately, most patients don’t realize that they have lung cancer until it’s already spread to other parts of the body.

By that time, the chances of survival go way down. If you’re having the symptoms of lung cancer, then visit a doctor.

Smoking dramatically increases your risk of cancer, so if you use tobacco, it’s recommended that you stop now.

Summary: Your symptom could be due to lung cancer. However, if you’re young and don’t smoke, that’s not a likely cause.

5. Pneumonia

An infection of the lung can lead to chest pains, fever, chills, and more. It can also cause you to cough up pus.

Pneumonia is when the air sacs of the lungs, called the alveoli, become inflamed due to an infection. The severity can range from mild to extreme.

Extreme cases can result in death, so you shouldn’t take the symptoms lightly.

If you’re asking, “Why do my lungs hurt” every day and things aren’t getting better, then it’s probably time to see a doctor.

If it does turn out to be pneumonia, then your doctor will put you on a drug regimen to clear the infection.

Pneumonia is very common and affects an estimated 3 million people per year in the United States.

Summary: If you’re having chest pains, fever, and chills, then you might have pneumonia and should see a doctor.

Diagnosing Lung Pain

The only way to know for sure what you have is to visit a doctor. Expect your doctor to ask you a series of questions regarding your symptoms.

Answering these questions accurately will help your doctor make a better diagnosis. Some of the questions your doctor may ask include:

  • How long have you been in pain?
  • On a scale from 1-10, how severe is the pain?
  • Does your pain come and go? Or is it chronic?
  • Did your lung pain begin suddenly? Or did it happen gradually?
  • Does the pain radiate to other parts of the body like the shoulder, jaw, or back?
  • Do you have any autoimmune conditions like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis?

We recommend keeping a health journal and tracking your symptoms each day.

This will make it easier to answer your doctor’s questions. The more information you give your doctor, the easier it will be for them to help you.

Aside from asking you questions and looking at your medical history, they may also perform the following tests:

  • X-Ray: To see if you have a lung infection.
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG): To check for a heart attack.
  • CT Scan: To check for evidence of infection, tumors, and more.
  • Blood Tests: To rule out autoimmune conditions like lupus.
  • Echocardiogram: To detect defects in your heart valves.

By performing these tests, your doctor will be able to rule out serious diseases and conditions.

Summary: Diagnosing lung pain requires a combination of diagnostic procedures ranging from X-rays to CT scans.

Can My Lungs Hurt Due to Cancer?

As we mentioned earlier in this article, your lungs don’t “feel” anything since they lack pain receptors.

With that said, it is possible for lung cancer to cause pain in the lung region. If the cancer is caught early, then your chances of survival are higher.

This is why you shouldn’t wait to see a doctor about your symptoms.

Important symptoms to watch for include unexplained weight loss, coughing up blood, and a persistent cough that doesn’t go away.

While these symptoms can be caused by other things, they can also be due to lung cancer.

The good news is that if you don’t smoke, if you’re young, and if you eat healthy, then lung cancer isn’t a likely cause.

Summary: Lung cancer can be a cause of your symptom, although it’s not likely if you’re young and a non-smoker.


We hope that you’ve found an answer to your question, “Why do my lungs hurt?”.

There are many other potential causes, but the ones in this article are the most common. I

f you’re having symptoms like shortness of breath, chest pain, or coughing up blood, then see a doctor as soon as possible.

Also, if your pain doesn’t go away in a reasonable amount of time (within one week) then this is also an indication that you should see a medical practitioner.

Ask a Question: If you want to ask a medical doctor a question that hasn't been answered in one of our articles go to: Ask a Medical Doctor About your Symptoms

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