Springdale Mason Pediatrics

Chest Pain - Symptom


  • Pain or discomfort in the chest (front or back)
  • Area includes the entire rib cage
  • The older child complains of chest pain
  • The younger child points to or holds the chest

Call or Return If

  • Pain becomes severe
  • Pain lasts over 7 days on treatment
  • You think your child needs to be seen
  • Your child becomes worse

About This Topic

Pain Scale

  • Mild: Your child feels pain and tells you about it. But, the pain does not keep your child from any normal activities. School, play and sleep are not changed.
  • Moderate: The pain keeps your child from doing some normal activities. It may wake him or her up from sleep.
  • Severe: The pain is very bad. It keeps your child from doing all normal activities.


  • Muscle Overuse. Chest pain can follow hard sports (such as throwing a baseball). Lifting (such as weights) or upper body work (such as digging) can be causes. This type of muscle soreness often increases with movement of the shoulders.
  • Muscle Cramps. Most brief chest pain lasting minutes is from harmless muscle cramps. It can also be caused by a pinched nerve.
  • Coughing. Chest pain commonly occurs with a hacking cough. Coughing can cause sore muscles in the chest wall, upper abdomen or diaphragm. Asthma can cause chest pain this way.
  • Heartburn. Heartburn is due to reflux of stomach contents. It usually causes a burning pain under the lower sternum (breastbone) or upper belly.
  • Heart disease is hardly ever the cause of chest pain in children.

After Care Advice

  • Chest pains in children lasting for a few minutes are usually harmless. The pain can be caused by muscle cramps. They need no treatment.
  • Chest pains that last longer can be from hard work or sports. Sore muscles can start soon after the event. The shoulders are usually involved.
  • Here is some care advice that should help.
Pain Medicine:
  • To help with the pain, give acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) or ibuprofen. Use as needed.
  • Continue this until 24 hours have passed without pain.
Cold Pack:
  • For the first 2 days, use a cold pack to help with the pain.
  • You can also use ice wrapped in a wet cloth.
  • Put it on the sore muscles for 20 minutes, then as needed.
  • Caution: Avoid frostbite.
Heat Pack:
  • If pain lasts over 2 days, put heat on the sore muscle.
  • Use a heat pack, heating pad or warm wet washcloth.
  • Do this for 10 minutes, then as needed.
  • Caution: Avoid burns.
  • A hot shower may also help.
Stretching the Muscles:
  • Gentle stretching of the shoulders and chest wall may help.
  • Do sets of 10 twice daily.
  • This may prevent muscle cramps from coming back.
  • Stretching can be continued even during the chest pain. Do not do any exercises that increase the pain.
What to Expect:
  • For sore muscles, the pain most often peaks on day 2.
  • It can last up to 6 or 7 days.

Author: Barton Schmitt MD, FAAP
Copyright 2000-2021 Schmitt Pediatric Guidelines LLC
Disclaimer: This health information is for educational purposes only. You the reader assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.
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