About 20-40% of the population may experience the symptoms of chest pain in their lifetime. Many of us may confuse chest pain as a pain we experience only in the chest. Chest pain is usually referred to as pain or discomfort a person feels at the chest, however it may also present as pain which may be radiating from the shoulder, arm, upper abdomen or jaw. It may feel like a stabbing or squeezing kind of pain. Although in some people the quality of discomfort is extremely vague and may be described as a mild tightness or merely as numbness or a burning sensation. Moreover, it is the second most common reason for emergency room visits.
Apart from pressure felt at the chest, other symptoms like light-headedness, dizziness, nausea, abdominal pain, shortness of breath and difficulty swallowing are usually seen.
Chest pains may be an indicator of a severe health issue. Therefore, it is recommended to get it checked out as soon as possible. Several underlying reasons can cause chest pains. The good news is, there are many treatments available for chest pains. Some of these are home remedies as well.
Causes of Chest Pain
Some of the most common causes of chest pain are associated with the heart. Some of these include:
1. Heart Attack or Myocardial Infarction
When your heart doesn’t receive enough blood flow, it does not get enough oxygen and nutrients. As a result, it causes the muscles and heart cells to start dying slowly, and when the flow of blood is completely obstructed, the heart tissue undergoes irreversible damage leading to a heart attack. Heart attacks are highly intense and may cause death. Some heart attack symptoms are pain in the left arm, chest pain, shortness of breath, excessive sweating, weakness, and tiredness. If you experience any of these symptoms, seek immediate help.
The symptoms of angina chest pain are similar to a heart attack, but it is less severe. It results from insufficient blood flow to the heart caused by blockages. The main symptom of angina is a squeezing pain in the chest. Additionally, shoulder, back, neck, and jaw pain are also common in angina. Although angina may be a symptom of coronary artery disease, it may also result from or by exertion, cold, or stress.
Myocarditis may result from an infection in the heart muscles. It can cause inflammation of the heart muscles and cells, which can then cause fever, fatigue, trouble breathing and a fast heart rate. These symptoms can mimic a heart attack. However, myocarditis is less severe and not caused by blockages.
The pericardium is a sac surrounding the heart. It offers protection and nourishment to the heart muscles. Any infection in the pericardium causes inflammation and may lead to pericarditis. When infected, the pericardium becomes inflamed. The symptoms of pericarditis are a sharp pain along the neck and shoulder.
5. Aortic Dissection
A tear in the aorta may lead to Aortic dissection. The aorta is one of the main blood vessels that carry blood from the heart to the other organs. If there’s a tear aorta it may cause severe pain often radiating to the back between the shoulder blades Additionally, there is insufficient blood flow towards other organs in the heart. Aortic dissections can be life-threatening.
6. Coronary Artery Dissection
A coronary artery dissection is a tear in the coronary artery caused by many reasons. First, it causes severe pain and discomfort in the chest, back, and abdomen. Additionally, this can cause insufficient blood flow to the heart and other organs. It is a severe condition that may be fatal.
Lung-related Causes of Chest Pain
An infection in your lungs may lead to pneumonia. It causes pain that gets worse every time you breathe. Fevers, chills and a cough accompany sharp pain.
An infection in the membrane covering the lungs may cause pleurisy. This membrane provides protection and nutrients to the lungs. When the membrane gets infected, it may cause inflammation and sharp pain when you breathe. The leading causes of infection are bacteria or viruses. However, disorders like lupus, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis may also cause pleuritis.
Pulmonary embolism is a blood clot that gets trapped in an artery or lung. It can cause severe chest pains each time you breathe. Also it causes difficulty breathing, coughing, fever, and circulatory shock. It is a life threatening emergency that needs immediate medical treatment.
Increased blood pressure in the lungs may cause pulmonary hypertension. In addition, it may lead to chest pains that resemble angina or a heart attack.
Pneumothorax happens when part of a lung collapses. It means that a person is unable to breathe correctly and it can occur due to an injury or a lung disease. It can cause sharp and stabbing pain in the chest. This is also a life threatening condition and requires immediate emergency care.
A bacterial infection in the lung may cause tuberculosis. It can lead to severe coughing, fever, and even chest pains.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) includes many lung diseases like asthma, obstructive asthma, emphysema, and bronchitis. COPD includes conditions that cause obstructions in the lung and airflow. It can lead to difficulty breathing. Some of the symptoms of COPD include coughing, wheezing and chest pain.
Gastrointestinal Related Causes of Chest Pain
Pancreatitis is an infection of the pancreas. It may result from bacterial or viral pathogens and cause pain in the lower chest region. The pain worsens when you lie down.
2. Acid Reflux
Acid reflux is also known as heartburn. It happens due to extreme acidity in the stomach after eating. Acid reflux can cause pain in the heart region, oesophagus, stomach. It can be easily treated using antacids and eating less acidic foods.
Ulcers, especially peptic ulcers, can cause pain in the abdomen, chest, and oesophagus. It happens when the lining of the stomach develops sores. Ulcers are prevalent in people who regularly smoke or drink alcohol. You can treat ulcers with antacids and medication.
4. Esophageal Perforation
An esophageal perforation can happen due to a cut or tear in the food pipe. It can cause intense pain in the chest and oesophagus, followed by vomiting.
5. Esophageal Contraction Disorder
The oesophagus must contract the food downwards to the stomach to swallow it. This contraction is called peristalsis. Sometimes there are irregularities in the peristaltic movement of the oesophagus. It can cause spasms or irregular movements. The spasms can lead to intense pain in the chest.
6. Hiatal Hernia
This type of hernia happens when part of the stomach pushes up into the chest. In severe cases, it may cause chest pain, especially during breathing and eating.
Bone, Muscle, or Nerve-related Causes of Chest Pain
1. Broken Rib
A bruised or broken rib can cause chest pain. It may worsen every time a person breathes. The muscles around the broken rib may also be inflamed, leading to further pain.
It may happen due to inflammation of the cartilage or ribs. It may cause intense chest pains. However, medication may help relieve it.
3. Muscle Strain
Muscle strain can happen around the chest area due to excessive inflammation. It may be due to several reasons, including coughing or injury. The inflammation in the muscles and tendons can cause chest pains.
4. Compression Fractures
Compression fractures in the chest can sometimes lead to excessive pressure on a nerve. As a result, it may cause pain in the chest region.
A virus causes shingles. It can cause a rash formation in the chest and back area, leading to chest pain.
Other Causes of Chest Pain
Anxiety or Panic Attacks
Panic attacks or anxiety may cause chest pains. You may also feel dizziness, nausea and a fast heartbeat.
When to Consult a Doctor?
You should consult a doctor when you experience chest pain. However, some symptoms might help you understand the severity of the condition. For example, if your chest pain spreads from your jaw to your left arm to your back, it may be a severe case.
Additionally, consult a doctor if you have very low blood pressure accompanying your chest pain. Furthermore, consult a doctor if you experience shortness of breath with chest pain. Also, if you experience fever, chills, swallowing problems, or your chest pain does not go away, consult a doctor immediately. Again, it is better to be safe than sorry.
Diagnosis of Chest Pain
You can diagnose the cause of chest pain using several methods. Some of them include doing blood work, testing heart enzymes, testing liver enzymes etc. Other methods include ECG, MRI, x-ray, echocardiogram, stress test, and an angiogram.
- ECG: An electrocardiogram or electrocardiograph helps to record the heart’s electricity.
- MRI: Magnetic Resonance Imaging is a device that helps take detailed pictures and scans of the heart.
- X-ray: This device used x-rays to determine the heart, lungs, and chest area images.
- Echocardiogram: It takes images of the heart using sound waves.
- Stress test: A stress test is done by undergoing extensive physical activities. The activity of the heart is measured during the exercise routines.
- Angiogram: An angiogram detects the blockages in arteries in the chest.
Treatment for Chest Pain
The treatment for chest pains depends on the severity of the pain and the condition that caused it in the first place. There are invasive and non-invasive procedures to treat chest pains. Usually, a combination of both invasive and non-invasive procedures is best. Some of the non-invasive procedures include medication.
Some invasive procedures include surgery. Additionally, cardiac catheterisation and repair of the arteries may also help. There are other treatments to treat the other causes of chest pains. For example, anti-acids, time anxiety medication and lung reinflation may help treat chest pain.
Use a cold pack to calm down strained muscles or bruised ribs. It is one of the most ancient yet effective ways to relieve chest pain.
Hot Drinks or Tea
A hot drink may relieve heartburn or chest pains due to abdominal conditions. In addition, they can eliminate gas and help digestion. Several types of teas are helpful, for example, hibiscus tea and ginger tea.
Almonds or almond milk is an excellent household remedy for acidity. It may offer alkaline conditions to the stomach and cool it down. In addition, it may reduce acidity and help heartburn.
Baking soda added to water can act as an anti-acid for acidity problems. The solution is very alkaline and can help calm the highest city in your stomach. However, excessive intake of baking soda can increase the acidity in your stomach over time.
Aspirin, usually used as a painkiller, maybe a blood thinner. If you have severe chest pains and feel like you might have a heart attack, take an aspirin. It may prevent the formation of blood clots. However, it is essential to follow up with a doctor afterwards.
Turmeric milk has shown anti-inflammatory properties, which may help alleviate chest pains. It is especially effective if muscle strains or bruises in the chest area cause these pains.
Foods to Avoid
Many fatty foods, spicy foods, high sugary foods may cause chest pain. In addition, many unhealthy foods can cause acid reflux which may cause heartburn. Furthermore, red meat is not suitable for the heart and may cause chest pains. You should incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables into the diet. They contain a high amount of fibre, which is beneficial to the body.
Many reasons may lead to chest pain. For example, heart conditions, gastrointestinal problems, chest muscle conditions, and other related issues are common causes. The common symptoms of chest pain include light-headedness, dizziness, nausea, abdominal pain, shortness of breath, difficulty swallowing, and difficulty breathing.
You may diagnose chest pain using various techniques, like ECG, MRI, X-ray, stress test, angiogram, etc. In addition, there are a variety of treatments for chest pain. They include non-invasive techniques like medication. Also, there are invasive techniques like surgery. Additionally, there are some home remedies for chest pain.
Several unhealthy and processed foods may also increase the risk of developing chest pains. The bottom line is that sticking to a healthy diet and following a regular exercise regime may reduce complications resulting in chest pain.