Chest Pain/Tightness

What is chest pain?

Chest pain or tightness is, as it sounds, a tight, heavy or stabbing pain across your chest area. It can be caused by stress, anxiety, indigestion, a persistent cough or chest infection, or even strenuous exercise. However, in some cases it will be a symptom of heart disease or a heart attack.

What Causes Chest Pain?

Chest pain should never be ignored. Chest pain causes can be varied, so you must get an accurate diagnosis and treatment as quickly as possible.

There are a few reasons why you may be experiencing chest pains. These include:

Chest Pain Causes - Heart Problems

Sometimes, chest pains are caused by a heart-related issue. These could be any of the following:

  • Cardiomyopathy: Disease of the heart muscle.
  • Heart attack: This is caused when blood flow to the heart is blocked.
  • Myocarditis: Inflammation of the heart muscle.
  • Angina: This is caused when the blood vessels leading to your heart become blocked.
  • Pericarditis: Inflammation of the sac around the heart.
  • Aortic Dissection: The aorta is a large vessel that comes directly off of the heart. Aortic dissection occurs when the aorta tears.

Chest Pain Causes - Anxiety

Anxiety is one of the most common causes of chest pain. It’s often the result of a panic attack or a heightened reaction to an experience or situation. For example, during hyperventilation episodes, the intercostal chest wall muscles can tense or go into spasm, causing chest pain. Sometimes, this chest pain causes heightened anxiety in sufferers experiencing an attack, which can exacerbate the existing pain and make it worse, leaving sufferers trapped in a cycle.

Chest Pain Causes - Gastrointestinal Issues

Sometimes, chest pain causes can stem from gastrointestinal issues. These issues include:

  • Gallstones
  • Inflammation of the pancreas or gallbladder
  • Acid reflux or heartburn
  • Disorders of the oesophagus
  • Stomach ulcers

Chest Pain Causes - Lung Problems

Lung-related issues are another common cause of chest pain. There are several lung-related conditions that can cause chest pain, but the most common are:

  • Pneumonia
  • Bronchospasm – This occurs when the bronchial tubes go into spasm and contract. It may become hard to breathe, and you may hear a wheezing or whistling sound in your airways. This is common in patients with COPD.
  • Pneumothorax
  • Viral Bronchitis
  • Blood clot or pulmonary embolus

Chest Pain Causes - Muscle and Bone Related Conditions

If you’re experiencing any of these issues, they may be causing your chest pain:

  • Broken or Bruised Ribs
  • Compression Fractures
  • Sore Muscles (including inter-costal muscles between ribs) – this could be from over-exertion or conditions that cause chronic pain

Other Chest Pain Causes

In addition to the issues listed above, several other conditions or illnesses can cause chest pain. These could be:

  • Shingles
  • Chest Infections
  • Asthma
  • Peptic Ulcers
  • Costochondritis – Inflammation of the rib cage cartilage
  • Tuberculosis
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Fibremyalgia

What treatments are there for chest pain?

Chest pain causes are varied, if you are experiencing chest pains it is important to seek medical attention quickly. Understanding the underlying cause of chest pain is paramount in putting a treatment plan in place. During your consultation our cardiologist will carry out a range of tests or scans of the heart, which may include: an electrocardiogram (ECG), blood tests, an echo, and a CT scan.

If you’re experiencing sudden chest pain that’s accompanied by:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sweating, pallor, loss of colour
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain that spreads from your chest to the neck, jaw or shoulders
  • Dizziness and a fast and irregular pulse
  • A sense of impending doom

Always call 999 for an ambulance immediately and without exception, as you may be experiencing a heart attack.

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