Is It Pleurisy or An Allergy To Cardio?

Have you ever heard of anything like this?

Since September, I’ve had this problem where if I do anything even remotely resembling metcon or cardio, my lungs (back, not chest) get an immediate ripping and burning feeling. And my throat feels immense pressure and hurts.

I’ve worked through this pain before; it doesn’t cause shortness of breath and I can easily do these workouts. It’s tolerable pain.

But then after I “work through” it, I end up with CHRONIC stabbing in my lungs – in the upper back – and a sore throat for weeks. Even when laying down at night to sleep. It also makes my voice feel strained and gravelly and it gives me a constant dry cough. This is a predicament since I need to use my voice for work on occasion.

So I went to a doctor who X-rayed my lungs, gave me an EKG test, tested my oxygen levels and blood pressure, and drew blood to see if I had elevated white blood cells. And everything came back perfectly. No abnormalities, aside from being super fit.

The doctor said her best guess is inflammation of the lungs or lining of the lungs, which is also known as pleurisy.

lol wut?

Since I was a kid my random medical issues have always been undiagnosable. Doctors are rarely able to figure out my problems…. And this is why I tend not to trust them right away. They don’t have answers. It usually takes trial and error or learning from someone else’s anecdotes to solve the problem.

So when people mock those who “do their own research” I get a little salty.

Dear doctors, we wouldn’t have to do our own research if your knowledge wasn’t limited to your college textbooks.

Here’s the other thing. This lung/throat pain is so easily triggered I can’t even superset exercises, slow jog, or abbreviate rest periods between lifts.

So what does that leave me with for exercise?

Walking and hiking, but not fast or strenuous. In the gym, lots of isolation lifts, slow eccentrics, pauses at the peak of contraction. I figured out how to hit upper body pretty hard without lung pain, but I can’t go from one exercise to another.

Also, no walking lunges. No loaded carries. None of the stuff that used to be my favorite.

Here’s my body part split: back day, arms and shoulders, legs. Yep, only three days a week. And no full-body workouts.

The good news? I pretty much look the same but with more ab definition. So maybe maintenance-mode is alright.

Ok thanks for attending, “Chats with Dani About Injuries You’ve Never Heard Of.”

Have you ever had an injury medical experts couldn’t diagnose?

  • Nope. My health problems are pretty straightforward.
  • Yep. And I fixed it through trial and error.
  • Yep. And I’m still trying to figure out what’s wrong.

0 voters

And here’s a picture of a leisurely hike from the weekend. Totally not posing.


I stand by this for the most part, but specialists tend to know their shit pretty well. An anecdotal experience…

My wife had some issues with light-headedness, severe headaches and rare fainting spells after she gave birth to our daughter (who was 4 at the time). Had been to multiple doctors, at least a half dozen over the 4 years or so after our daughter was born - all of whom just said “it’s a headache” and gave her headache medication… sometimes stronger stuff than standard OTC drugs like Advil.

Then last spring she went in for an optometry visit, simply to get a new prescription for her glasses. During the visit, the doctor found her optic nerve was swollen… IMMEDIATE trip to get a spinal tap. The opening pressure (pressure of spinal fluid in the spine when tapped) showed that my wife had Idiopathic Intercranial Hypertension (IIH) and MRI showed this was caused by a stenosis in both of her jugular veins.

Luckily where we are at in California, we had access to one of the best hospital systems in the country which had a research doctor who had doctorates in both neurology and optometry; he mentioned how exceedingly rare this occasion is, particularly for someone in my wife’s situation (this mostly applies to significantly overweight women of child-bearing age). This doctor referred us to the chief of neurosurgery who specialized in this exact procedure. They both said if we hadn’t caught this when we did, she probably wouldn’t have made it another month. Talk about good luck/bad luck. Wife is okay.

The point of me sharing this is that while many doctors are complete shit at their job and write you off, there are some who specialize in their field - and they save lives where lesser doctors couldn’t have.

What kind of dog?


YES. I think you’re right about this. I don’t mean to be a turd toward doctors, I’ve just had a lot of bad luck with the generalists.

I actually just saw your post about your wife this morning, and was really worried. (I haven’t gotten into the habit of using forums, so every thread is new to me!) But boy am I relieved to hear you guys got the problem solved. It sounds like that specialist saved her life.

My issue is nothing compared to hers, it’s just annoying that in order to figure it out, I’ll need to spend a lot more time and money, and the solution may end up being what common sense has been telling me all along: Let the lungs heal by avoiding cardio.

As for the dogs, we’ve got two mutts. One’s some kind of terrier mix (Jack Russle?) and the other is some kind of lab mix.

Thanks for the thoughtful comment!


Absolutely the same experience here. General Docs let this condition slide for about 4 years and almost let her die from it. Specialists saved her life without a doubt.

It would be nice to have your presence here on the forums honestly; the wife has read many of your T-Nation articles and would likely be interested in asking you questions about training and nutrition!

Of the tests the doctors have given you, have any had you do the lung capacity test (probably not the technical term for it)? It’s the one where you blow into a tube and the machine tracks output and lung volume… curious if this might provide needed insight. Also surprising that they didn’t have any inhaler-type remedies for this… Google says it’s often a type of infection though, so NSAIDs like Ibuprofen and all that would probably work well (according to Dr. Google).


That’s a good idea! Though I believe my lung capacity is pretty healthy, since nothing I do when my lungs start to hurt gets me out of breath.

The doctor did prescribe an inhaler in case it’s asthma-related, but I’ve been dragging my feet on picking it up. How on earth could I be used to all sorts of metabolic conditioning and then suddenly acquire asthma as an adult?

I haven’t talked about this publicly because I thought people would assume it’s related to that pesky virus going around, but this burning lung thing happened in 2018 too. And the only thing that helped was stopping all intensity that made my lungs work hard.

So hopefully that’s a sign it’ll go away again. I just have to be patient enough to not re-irritate my lungs and cause the inflammation to come back.


Not a long reply from me, but I’d grab the inhaler. I played sports through college and then was in the army (so lots of physicals and the like) with no issues. I ended up needing an inhaler here and there (for a month or so like every two years) for some reason late in my 30s. It’s not impossible, and it may not even really be traditional asthma - all kinds of things can cause bronchospasms.

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Do some research about histamine intolerance. When you exercise your body can release histamine. Have you tried antihistamines?


Good thoughts; I’ll give it a try! Thanks for dropping by.

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Fascinating! I’ve only taken antihistamines at night because they make me drowsy. But it’d be interesting learn more about how exercise relates to the release of histamines. I don’t doubt it, and would love to know more.

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Great point I didn’t even consider @ChickenLittle! @Dani_Shugart, there’s some evidence that Vitamin C can help with histamine reactions. Maybe try a tablet of that before having to go straight to antihistamines? Could be a cool experiment with low risk for a couple weeks.


Well loratadine (Claritin) is pretty safe, and I believe is approved for long term use.
Vitamin c definitely isn’t going to hurt either. They even make some “natural” DAO supps (I haven’t tried them). Apparently some people just don’t make enough DOA to breakdown the histamine. External exposure to allergens in the environment and food can accumulate when the body doesn’t break it down properly.

I try to limit high Histamine foods and take claritin for a week or so and it seems to “fix it” for a while until I have another “spell”.


Love the idea of experimenting! I do take a big dose of vitamin C before bed, but kind of afraid to do it around training time because it’s an antioxidant. Isn’t there some sort of theory that taking antioxidants around workouts will limit hypertrophy?

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You’ve given me some good homework here. Thank you! I’ve never heard of DOA – aside from the foo fighters song and the term “dead of arrival” LOL. I’ll try the Claritin! We have a bottle here, and while it’s never cleared up my allergies, it’d be interesting to see if it could ameliorate this bizarre lung pain. Thank you so much for the great ideas!


Just hope it helps!!! Or at least you get to the bottom of this either way.
I’m a … it’s worth a shot! Kinda gal… lol


These results suggest that chronic AS can mitigate ST related improvements of body composition in young women.

Couldn’t find much else because studies and training don’t really mix well for a variety of factors.


Yesterday’s workout was shoulders and arms. And I was feeling SO good that I got a little too ambitious. So instead of just doing some standard sets of like 3x10 (or anything reasonable like that), I decided to use some intensity techniques: extended sets, drop sets, partials.

It felt great in the moment. My breathing was elevated. No lung or throat pain. Until…

A few hours after my workout and for the rest of the day I had aching lungs and swollen lymph nodes.

I was able to sleep well (no pain) last night though, so maybe that big dose of vitamin C, which ChickenLittle recommended, is what’s been helping. I should just try taking it after the workout and not worry about the hypertrophy response.

Ha! This is really good info! Thanks for the insight.

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I’m that kinda gal too! Glad you’re here!

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@TrainForPain recommended the viramin C which certainly can’t hurt. I go straight for the hardstuff.

I get bloated within a matter of minutes, to the extent that I have chest pains and can’t get a full breath. I always think… it’s the big one Elizabeth!!!

Just keep in mind that it’s accumulative so it won’t go away until your body gets rid of the extra histamine. So, it may take a bit.


I’m sorry you’re going through this, but it’s really interesting. I think @ChickenLittle is on point that you’re experiencing a histamine reaction based on your symptoms. I’ve read this before, but I don’t know that it ever would popped into my head as a likely culprit.
It does appear that anything that blunts the body’s inflammation response also blunts the hypertrophic response (in literature). It’s kinda like the “perfect program” question, though. You’ll get way more hypertrophy if you’re able to be consistent (reaction in your case) than doing everything “perfectly” in a way that prevents you from completing your plan.