Any pain is uncomfortable, but chest pain can be particularly worrying because it may indicate a problem with your heart. Chest pain may not always be caused by a serious illness, but it is important to be aware of pain as soon as possible.
Here are the most common causes of chest pain.
Symptom of a heart attack
One of the most serious causes of chest pain is a heart attack, also known as myocardial infarction. A heart attack usually occurs when blood flow to the heart is blocked by a blood clot. During a heart attack, a persistent, uncomfortable pressure or compression may be felt in the center of the chest. However, not everyone is equally impressed by a heart attack. Although chest pain is often seen during a heart attack, women are more likely to experience pain, sweating, unusual tiredness, back or jaw pain, or shortness of breath in one or both arms.
Signs of panic attacks
Panic attacks are cases of extreme anxiety, often accompanied by physical symptoms. During a panic attack, some people experience chest pains that may feel like heart problems. Like a heart attack, panic attacks can cause sharp chest pain, shortness of breath, and palpitations. Most panic attacks last from a few minutes to half an hour. Although they feel like emergencies, panic attacks often pass by themselves and are not dangerous.
Deep and slow breathing can help alleviate symptoms during an attack, but if you have never had a panic attack or live regularly, contact a healthcare professional.
Aortic dissection is a rare but life-threatening cause of chest pain. Although this condition is rare, it is more common in men in their 60s and 70s. You may experience tearing in aortic dissection, and different blood pressure levels are measured in each arm. Aortic dissection is a potentially fatal condition if it is not diagnosed and treated early. Other symptoms of this condition include leg pain or numbness, severe abdominal pain, difficulty speaking, or weakness on one side of the body.
May be related to ribs
One of the most common causes of chest pain is actually related to the ribs. Costochondritis is a common form of chest pain caused by cartilage inflammation of the ribs that attach to the sternum. Although it feels uncomfortable, costochondritis is not typically dangerous and is often associated with viral infections that cause excessive exercise, prolonged or severe coughing, or pain in the person’s body. Costochondritis usually resolves on its own after a few weeks, but sometimes it can take several months or more.
An irritated nerve can cause chest pain
Chest pain can sometimes occur when one of the nerves from your neck (cervical spine) or middle back (thoracic spine) is irritated or inflamed. These nerves give a feeling to all parts of the body, including your chest. When a nerve is pinched or irritated in the spinal cord, it can cause pain to spread to the chest area. This pain is often severe and difficult to detect. While an irritated nerve is not always dangerous, it is important to avoid more serious conditions by consulting a doctor.
GERD is another common cause
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition in which stomach acid moves back through the esophagus, causing pain and a burning sensation. It is often linked to muscle weakness above the stomach and can cause sharp chest pain. Risk factors for GERD are being overweight, getting pregnant, and having high stress levels.
May be a sign of pulmonary embolism
Pulmonary embolism occurs when a blood clot blocks a vein. Patients often experience chest pain with shortness of breath. This can lead to sudden shortness of breath, heart failure, and sudden heart attacks. This condition can be life-threatening and if you think you have experienced a pulmonary embolism, seek medical attention immediately.
May be caused by gallbladder problem
Biliary colic is a constant or intermittent pain in the upper abdomen, usually on the right side of the rib cage. It happens when something blocks the normal flow of bile from the gallbladder. It may feel similar to heart attack symptoms. This blockage is caused by a gallstone, a small mass typically composed of cholesterol or hardened bilirubin. Biliary colic usually occurs with a sudden onset of sharp pain in the upper stomach or upper right of the trunk.
The esophagus is the tube that carries food to your stomach. Problems with the esophagus may cause pain in the chest area near your heart. Esophagus spasms can be painful and worrying, especially if you’ve never experienced them before. It most commonly affects people between the ages of 60 and 80 and is associated with high blood pressure and depression. Symptoms of esophagus spasms are difficulty swallowing and feeling like there is food stuck in the middle of your chest.