Chest tightness/Lung pain: Good morning... - Oesophageal Patie...

Oesophageal Patients Association

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Chest tightness/Lung pain


Good morning. I had another question about an issue I’ve been having since my surgery a little over 4 months ago. I had the chest tube on my right side, all the fluid didn’t drain so they had to put in another chest tube. Since My surgery, when I take a deep breath, usually when I’m relaxing or sleeping, it feels like that side is very tight and it hurts as I’m in inhaling. After a few deep breaths that pain goes away. Also, not sure what the doctors did, but my front right side near my ribs, I’ve lost the feeling on my skin. If that makes sense. I know each person has their own experience but if anyone else has had any of these issues I’d appreciate any advice you can offer.


23 Replies

Hello Tania. I too have numbness in the skin over my ribs, under my right breast, since my op three months ago. My surgeon told me it is because of the nerves that he had to cut. I asked if I would ever get the feeling back again and he told me that some of it might return, but I shouldn't expect too much. So what you describe sounds quite normal.

I can't help much with your question about the chest tightness, except to suggest that you should mention it to your doctors. It could be an indication that you would benefit from physiotherapy so as to get your right lung back in good working order.

scooby2010 in reply to FKM100

Thank you. Not happy about you going through that as well but glad to know it’s not just me and I’m not crazy.

Hi Tania

I too experienced something similar.Not pain as such but for months On occasions I had to gather my breaths to make myself comfortable. Even now.. 18 months on I sometimes have a slight tightening feeling on my right hand side. A few steady but deep breaths eases this.

I still have The tingling feeling on the right hand side but Id describe It now as, when you’ve had pins and needles and it’s nearly gone!

All perfectly normal I’ve been told...

Hope this helps..

scooby2010 in reply to KfromUK

It does help. Deep breaths do help with the tightness after a while and it only happens when I’m sleeping. Not tightness during the day. I know when I was in the hospital a couple nights after the surgery the nurses would have to wake me up and tell me to breathe so that’s why I get worried about the tightness at night.

KfromUK in reply to scooby2010

Hi my nurses would remind me to breathe too! I keep reminding myself that we’ve got to get our lungs and diaphragm exercised too... the operation caused major trauma to our chest and just like every other part of our body we need to build our strength back up.

Slow and deep breathing exercises during the day will help this and don’t worry about night time the breathing will get easier and if your lungs need oxygen they’ll wake you up!

Take care


Hi I totally agree with everything other have said and I am 7 years on from my op, there is a lot of repair going on within the inside of the body , especially the ribs and lungs so just take your time and enjoy your life x

scooby2010 in reply to hunsdon

Thank you. I know everyone is different but how long did it take you to feel “normal” again?

Hi Tania

As others have said it seems a really common issue. I’m 6 months post open Ivor Lewis & just recently had a CT scan which showed everything is healing fine. The consultant said that the removal of a rib, fracturing of another & the disruption to nerves would be contributing to this R sided pain. I also had an empyema about 6 weeks post surgery around R lung & had to get another chest drain in to get rid of gathered fluid. We just have to get used to some issues that we’re left with as it is such major surgery. That said, if you feel unwell with your pain please seek advice ASAP. A chat with your specialist nurse may allay any fears you have

Take care


scooby2010 in reply to kp11

Thank you Karen. I’m definitely calling my doctor next week.

Hi there, I am 7 Yrs post op, I still don’t have full feeling on the right side, I also can’t take a deep breath in Or lay on my left side anymore, if I do I bring up acid, very unpleasant, you just learn to adjust really, it’s very early days for you, give yourself time and be kind to yourself x

hunsdon in reply to Popsic

Hi I having been taking esomeprazole which you gave me the good advice and it has helped a lot my only downside is side affect was skin problems but doctors are checking it out so back on the tabs at the moment and let’s see where this goes, I hope your doing ok


Popsic in reply to hunsdon

I'm glad it's doing some good for you, your skin probs may hopefully settle down,

I'm doing OK thank you, still trying to come to terms with my brothers death, but time as they say, and it's very early days, his funeral is on the 18th of this month.

Please stay in touch, let us all know how your getting on x

hunsdon in reply to Popsic

I hope things go ok for you regarding the funeral, take care stay in touch .


Popsic in reply to hunsdon

Thank you Tina, x

scooby2010 in reply to Popsic

Thank you. How long did your recovery take you? I know everyone is different but hearing others experiences is somewhat reassuring especially now because I feel like I’ve taken steps backwards.

Popsic in reply to scooby2010

Hi there, sorry for the delay in replying, I'm still recovering to be honest. The hospital team have found it hard to find the right medication for me. I think I'm slowly getting there, just had a step back tho, my own fault, I was panicking about taking 40mg omeprazole so cut them down and the acid has returned with a vengeance, things seem to get better them it gets turned upside down,

Agree with all of the responses.

Lungs still hurt when I breath in, side and under breast still tight and numb.

Hi Tania,

Have you ever used a crowbar? and some bench vice to clamp the metals to work on while keeping it open position.

Now imagine cutting all the skin+muscle tissue (not mentioning my fat there :)) deep and long cuts in front of abdomen and right chest cavity. abdomen is still ok as its only muscle section without bones. For the second half of the surgery where the access to the oesophagus inside the chest cavity is required, the ribs are pushed by force apart and this opening is kept open using metal clips for almost 3 to 4 hours. While this the lungs are collapsed for obvious access reasons. To cut open the ribcage and force it to open wide enough to do surgery inside is very very hard physical abuse on the body. Same thing is done to abdomen to keep it open during the surgery.

As others have said the nerves offcourse are cut along with the muscle tissues, hence you will have the numbness for long or forever in some or all cut scar areas. With the scar tissue getting hard you can feel it as well the touch sensitivity is varying for all of us. For me using skin cream has almost blended the front abdomen scar to adjacent skin colour. everybody is different. vitamin E helps.

Now you may appreciate that with such physical abuse deep into the body which is done while you were "sleeping" is not easily and clearly understood by many of us.

the tightness is not the lungs themselves but the surrounding tissue which is healing or scarred hard. Because of the nerves not sensing the pain at the joints the pain/ache is felt as if coming from lungs, as a primary suspicion, or rear back etc.

One of the collateral damage of this surgery is pleural effusion for some during the recovery process. With minimal symptoms this can be healed at home itself without medications, but pain killers and exercising lungs with dry air atmosphere. With significant effusion, you will experience sharp pains around your back and /or side of the ribcage. this will be such an intense and sharp pain which will make you suffer when you try to move, shift or even talk etc. My wife checks on me with her stethoscope at times. Again I had suffered lungs failure which became ARDS and then critical failure needing much intensive treatment. Different topic.

The point was to help you distinguish between the pleural effusion (which may or may not require hospital admission, also plausible in early months of the surgery than later) and normal tissue pain (almost all of us suffer) due to the surgical treatment (body "abused").

Most importantly indication of ache/pain (within reasons) in my view is healing ongoing internally. so deep breathing exercise are must and continue pushing the exercise. Same thing goes with use of the right arm, it will pain obviously, but keep using it as normally, to continue the recovery. No aches/pains in muscle tissues means not sufficient exercise given to the areas to push the recovery. Again take this with a pinch of salt, if not bucketful!!

That had made a lot of sense to me ,and cleared up a lot of questions I’ve been asking myself,so thank you 🙏🏻

Thank you so much for all your input. I haven’t heard of Crowbar. I know the surgery is a major surgery but your description is even more eye opening.

I have been using vitamin E to help with my scars. Since they had to cut 3 areas of flesh out due to the infection I got, not sure of those with ever completely go away.

I just want to feel normal again. I miss being able to enjoy eating. Now anything I eat causes pain and discomfort. It’s been difficult to remain positive.

Hi scooby 2010.

I'm 7 Months on from Ivor Lewis. Yes it's hard I have dumping syndrome and no matter what I remove from my dier it continues I have numb ribs and a tight chest but I'm here I'm well I can go for short walks. It is a hard bumpy journy I miss the lovely meals I used to enjoy I also have the added problem of coeliac disease and my new plumbing does not like gluten free bread but I'm learning to cope slowly .

I know that some days it's hard to be positive but I look back to how weak I was when I came home in march to the way I am now and it helps. Hang in there you can always phone the opa office and they can put you in touch with another patient to talk with. This is really a wonderful organisation, use the resources they have. It will help

Keep your chin up and good luck. Things will get better just be kind to your self and be patient with your body and accept that your new normal will be very different to the old. 🙂

Staying upbeat and positive is a hard work and not cup of tea for everyone. Its possible.

Key is to be winning the daily battle on average more positive days than down days.

Body takes its own sweet time to adjust to the New (Anatomical) Normal.

Your mind is very subjective to achieve the New (Psychological) Normal. Sooner one accepts the damage and this change, the quicker the body aligns with the mental acceptance.

4 months past surgery is very very early days and everybody is different. Over the period of time you will enjoy every single thing, with caution and moderation. Suggest giving yourself healing break, which is required.

The urge to feel normal is good sign of wanting to recover, suggest if you channelise this energy towards acceptance of the New Normal.

My op was 3 years ago and zi still have numbness. Breathing gets better but do do the exercises you were given (

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