An introduction to bronchitis & chest discomfort
Bronchitis is a condition which occurs when an irritant or infection causes inflammation and swelling to the lining of the bronchial tubes (the tubes that carry air to and from your lungs). As the irritated membranes of the bronchi swell and grow thicker, the tiny airways of the lungs become restricted.
This inflammation can also cause the membranes in the lining to start producing excess mucus, clogging the bronchi and restricting airflow to the lungs further, which can cause your chest to feel heavy and congested.
Coughing (the most common symptom of bronchitis) occurs as the body attempts to expel the irritant, infection and any excess mucus out of the airways, which if persistent can lead to chest discomfort.
Why does bronchitis cause chest discomfort?
When irritated and inflamed, the bronchial tubes often start to produce excess mucus. If mucus builds up it can start to clog and congest the air passages, causing airflow to be restricted. This can lead to a feeling of tightness, heaviness or pressure in the chest, making you feel uncomfortable.
Bronchitis can also make your chest feel heavy and achy, if you're coughing really hard for long periods of time.
Coughing is a natural reflex that is triggered when the bronchial tubes become inflamed or swollen. The body uses coughing as a way of removing the irritant or infection causing the inflammation, as well as a way to bring up any excess mucus.
Over time constant coughing, especially dry, hacking coughs, can leave your chest and throat feeling sore, as well as cause abdominal muscle pain. Coughing can also be severe enough at times to injure the chest wall.
Whilst it is common to feel some discomfort in your chest due to persistent coughing and congestion, if you experience chest pains you should consult your doctor immediately.
Chest discomfort is also a common symptom of chronic bronchitis – a long-term, serious condition, which is most commonly caused by smoking. The excessive build up of mucus often causes those with chronic bronchitis to experience chest discomfort and difficulty breathing.
Are there any self-help measures?
There are a number of steps you can take to help ease chest discomfort caused by bronchitis. These include:
Apply a hot compress: Applying heat to your chest can help to soothe that heavy feeling and ease any discomfort. Press a hot compress such as a hot water bottle to your chest. To avoid burning your skin, don’t apply any hot compress directly onto your skin. Wrap it in a towel or apply it over clothing.
Get plenty of rest: Rest and sleep will help support your immune system, making it function more efficiently and speeding up the healing process.
Ease your cough: If persistent coughing is causing your chest and throat to ache you may need help to get your cough under control. Take a look at our cough self-help measures and remedies for simple ways to ease dry, hacking coughs and mucus-producing coughs.
Reduce mucus production: Excess amounts of mucus often occur as the condition progresses, which can cause congestion in your chest, making it feel heavy and causing you to cough more – all of which can contribute to the uncomfortable feeling in your chest.
It is therefore important to take measures to help your body reduce mucus production and thin mucus to allow you to cough it up more easily and clear it from your airways. Take a look at our mucus self-help measures for lots of mucus reducing tips.
Are there any herbal remedies that can help?
Persistent coughs are often one of the most prominent symptoms of bronchitis. These coughs may or may not be accompanied by the production of mucus and persistent coughing can unsurprisingly give rise to chest discomfort.
If you find you experience a chesty or mucus cough, you can use the herbs Ivy and Thyme found in Bronchoforce to help ease your symptoms.
Ivy is naturally anti-spasmodic and can work well to help loosen any stubborn mucous, whilst thyme is gently anti-septic, helping to thin any mucus making it easier to expel.
If instead, an underlying infection is likely to be exacerbating the symptoms of a chesty cough (this is particularly common in cases of acute bronchitis), then Echinaforce, in combination with Bronchoforce, may be a good option for you.
Echinaforce can help to minimise the duration and severity of your symptoms, whilst also supporting your immune system.
Finally, if a dry, persistent cough is your main symptom (often more likely in cases of chronic bronchitis) then Bronchosan Pine Cough Syrup may be helpful. Made from fresh spruce shoots combined with honey, this fragrant mix helps to move any stubborn mucus, whilst also helping to soothe the length of your respiratory tract.
Please note that persistent coughing may also cause muscle strain in your chest which can also give rise to discomfort.
What about conventional medicines?
As well as self-help measures and herbal remedies, there are some conventional medicines that your doctor or pharmacist may recommend to ease your chest discomfort. These include:
Expectorants: Over-the-counter expectorants work by loosening or thinning mucus which has built up in the chest, making it easier for it to be expelled when you cough and helping to ease chest discomfort if excess mucus is congesting your airways.
Suppressants: If your cough is productive (mucus-producing), don’t use a cough suppressant, unless your doctor recommends it. However, if you have a persistent dry hacking cough, then a cough suppressant may be helpful. Cough suppressants reduce the activity of the cough reflex, which is especially helpful if persistent coughing is causing you discomfort.
Antibiotics: These will only be prescribed if your doctor thinks your acute bronchitis is being caused by a bacterial infection.
Over-the-counter painkillers: You can treat aches and chest discomfort with painkillers – such as paracetamol or ibuprofen.