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The pleura are thin layers of tissue forming an insulating layer between the lungs and the chest wall. Pleurisy is inflammation of the pleura. The most common cause is infection of the lung, which spreads to the adjacent pleura; this often happens with pneumonia but can accompany even a minor chest infection. Sometimes the pleura become inflamed without other lung disease.


Pleurisy gives rise to a sharp pain in the chest, which feels like a knife sticking into the side. The pain is worse on breathing in as this stretches the pleura. There may be a cough and fever too if there is a lung infection. On listening to the lungs through a stethoscope, the doctor may be able to hear a characteristic creaking sound over the area of
pleurisy as the patient breathes in, which is called a rub. Pleurisy itself is not dangerous but pleurisy associated with pain in the calf or with coughing blood could mean pulmonary embolism, which is dangerous.


All cases benefit from painkillers; the best type is an anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen. As well as letting you feel more comfortable, painkillers allow you to breathe deeply, which is important in getting over a chest infection. If there are signs of infection, then you will need an antibiotic. Pleurisy settles over a few days.

Complementary Treatment

Chakra balancing reduces pain, relaxes the whole body, including the thorax, and loosens sputum. The Alexander Technique can help after recovery. Diet is important for prevention – a nutritional therapist will be able to advise you on this.

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