There is no condition that directly triggers chest pain when bending forward. However, heartburn and a pulmonary embolism may worsen chest pain when a person bends forward.

In these conditions, the pain increases during certain activities or movements.

However, treatment options are available. Heartburn treatment includes lifestyle changes, as well as medications that neutralize or remove stomach acid. Pulmonary embolism treatment involves medicines that make the blood thinner.

Keep reading to learn about the causes and treatments for worsening chest pain when bending forward.

Close up of a person holding their chest while bending forwards.Share on Pinterest
Rawpixel/Getty Images

Below is a description of heartburn and its treatment.

What is heartburn?

Heartburn is a burning sensation a person feels behind the breastbone, in the throat, or in the neck. It can be frequently worse when bending over, after eating, lying down, or in the evening.

It occurs with acid reflux, also known as gastrointestinal reflux disease, a condition where the content of the stomach goes in the wrong direction. In other words, instead of going down from the stomach into the intestines, it goes back up the food pipe, or esophagus. The esophagus is the tube that transports food from the mouth to the stomach.

Causes of heartburn include:

  • certain medications
  • some foods
  • alcohol
  • pregnancy
  • structural changes, such as a hiatal hernia, which can open the sphincter valve that keeps acid in the stomach.

Heartburn treatment

Treatment options for heartburn involve lifestyle changes and medications. It is important to treat the condition as recurring episodes can cause inflammation and damage in the esophagus over time.

Lifestyle factors

Lifestyle recommendations to reduce or prevent heartburn include:

  • sleeping with the upper part of the body elevated
  • quitting smoking
  • avoiding wearing tight clothing or tight belts
  • maintaining a moderate weight
  • avoiding overeating
  • avoiding triggers, which are foods, beverages, or activities, that tend to start an episode
  • eating low fat, high protein meals
  • eating smaller meals more often

Foods and beverages that may worsen heartburn include:

  • carbonated drinks
  • coffee
  • alcohol
  • onions
  • citrus fruits
  • chocolate
  • mints
  • tomato products
  • spicy food, such as chili or curry
  • fatty food, such as pizza

Other activities or factors that may worsen heartburn include:

  • taking aspirin or ibuprofen (Motrin)
  • taking certain medications, such as sedatives and high blood pressures drugs
  • having overweight or obesity
  • lying down too soon after a meal
  • drinking alcohol


For fast, short-term relief from heartburn symptoms, a person can use over-the-counter antacids, which are medicines that neutralize stomach acid.

However, these drugs can cause diarrhea or constipation, so a person may wish to choose those containing magnesium hydroxide and aluminum hydroxide, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. Because one of these ingredients causes diarrhea and the other causes constipation, the effects negate each other.

Examples of antacids include:

  • Maalox
  • Mylanta
  • Riopan

Doctors may sometimes recommend histamine or H2 blockers, drugs that reduce the amount of acid the stomach produces. Some require a prescription, but others are available over the counter. Examples of H2 blockers include:

  • cimetidine (Tagamet)
  • famotidine (Pepcid)
  • ranitidine (Zantac)

Proton pump inhibitors (PPI) may also be an effective treatment. There are various PPI medications available, however, the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders claim that the different types are similar in terms of effectiveness.

Some PPIs include:

Learn more about PPIs here.

Learn more about heartburn here.

Below is a description of a pulmonary embolism and treatments.

What is pulmonary embolism?

A pulmonary embolism is a sudden blockage of blood flow in an artery in the lungs. The most common cause involves a blood clot in the veins of the leg, known as deep venous thrombosis, that breaks loose, travels to the lungs, and gets lodged in one of its blood vessels.

Common symptoms include:

  • chest pain, which may worsen when a person breathes deeply, coughs, eats, stoops, or bends
  • coughing up blood
  • shortness of breath
  • blueish lips or nails

This condition is a life threatening event that may lead to:

  • low oxygen levels
  • permanent lung damage
  • stress on organs such as the heart
  • damage to other organs that do not receive adequate oxygen

Pulmonary embolism treatment

Treatment for a pulmonary embolism involves preventing the blood clots from getting larger and preventing new ones from forming. The most common treatment involves blood thinners, which doctors usually prescribe for at least 3 months if the blood clot is “provoked.”

If the clot is “unprovoked” or “recurrent,” then a person may need a longer course of blood thinners.

Since blood thinners increase the risk of bleeding, people taking them may need to exercise certain precautions. For example, they may need to take medication to protect their stomach and minimize the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding. They may also need to be careful about certain activities, such as skiing or mountain biking, which may increase their risk of trauma and bleeding.

If an individual has a life threatening blood clot, a doctor may administer a clot dissolver, known as a thrombolytic. A healthcare professional could also thread a thin, flexible tube through the blood vessels to remove it.

Learn more about pulmonary embolisms here.

Someone with chest pain should seek immediate medical attention, as it could indicate life threatening conditions such as a pulmonary embolism or serious heart issues. Prompt treatment may prevent complications and fatal outcomes.

Even if chest pain is due to heartburn, it is best to consult a doctor, as frequent episodes can damage the esophagus. At the same time, healthcare professionals may need to exclude other serious diagnoses.

People with heartburn or a pulmonary embolism may experience worsening chest pain when bending forward.

In addition, chest pain from heartburn may increase after eating or when lying down, while chest pain from pulmonary embolisms may increase during deep breathing or stooping.

Because the vital organs of the heart and lungs are within the chest, a person should take pain in this area seriously.