Chest pain and pressure is a sensation of heaviness or pressure on your chest area. Several physiological to psychological responses of the body cause this sensation.
Please read the following article for comprehensive information about the different types of chest pains and their causes. It also discusses the treatment options for each type.
What is Chest Pain and Pressure?
A sensation of pain, heaviness, or pressure on your chest area is called chest pain and pressure. You might feel a stinging feeling, a stabbing effect, or a burning sensation that travels toward your throat.
On the other hand, it is a tightening feeling that hinders normal breathing. In order to figure out the cause, it is important to know the type of chest pain you are suffering from.
Let’s explore the types of chest pain for better understanding.
Types of Chest Pain
Here are the plausible types of chest pain that may prevail in different people. You may be feeling that something is sitting on your chest.
Cardiac Chest Pain
Cardiac Chest Pain is the kind of chest pain that you may experience due to any abnormality in the heart or heart’s function. This discomfort or pain can be characterized as a tightening or a squeezing sensation in the chest.
This pain might come forward when there is a limited blood supply to the cardiac muscle. It occurs when there is an obstruction in arteries that supply blood to the heart. It could be in the form of a blood clot or a plaque.
Coronary heart diseases are the main causes of these conditions and should be tested immediately.
Non-Cardiac Chest Pain
It could be possible that the heavy chest feeling you might be getting is not because of any cardiac issue. It could be due to entirely different reasons, such as gastrointestinal issues, muscular pains, or respiratory conditions, such as asthma or bronchitis.
Apart from these conditions, it might also be because of anxiety, panic attacks, or any other psychological issue or discomfort.
The difference between constant chest pain due to non-cardiac and cardiac chest pain is that you might feel pain or discomfort in the upper abdomen and travel toward the back. This pain could be sharp or a light disturbance in the usual activity.
Other symptoms, like the heaviness of breath or anxiety and stress, could be the same as cardiac chest pain.
Mixed Chest Pain
Apart from the previously mentioned types of chest pain, it could also result from different temporary issues or diseases. It could be because of smoking or obesity. Smoking might cause “Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)” or many other diseases that can hinder the normal functioning of the lungs, and this may cause chest pain.
Another cause could be muscle strain due to obesity. If you’re obese, you might feel tightness in the chest.
Causes of Cardiac Chest Pain
There could be several causes of cardiac chest pain that you might have. Identifying the cause and then going for a treatment option is necessary. Here are the most common causes of cardiac chest pain and what you should do after identifying your cause:
Coronary Artery Disease
Coronary Artery Disease is a common condition in which the blood supply to your heart is insufficient or inconsistent. This disease occurs due to a blockage in the artery or the narrowing of the artery/arteries.
It happens mainly due to a blood clot, plaque, or artery narrowing. This change in the supply could lead to pinching chest pain.
The treatment could involve changing lifestyle, adding beneficial diet modifications, exercise, and medication. If the condition worsens, angioplasty or bypass surgery is often chosen to prevent further heart complications.
A heart attack occurs when the cardiac muscle is completely damaged or stops working. It could also be because of a complete blockage of blood vessels, causing a blockage of the blood supply to the heart.
Any person about to experience a heart attack may feel indications such as pinching chest pain that increases with time. The narrowing or tightening feeling may start from the left arm and continue towards the chest.
Prevention is necessary for people who are prone to heart disease. Dietary modification, cholesterol or high blood pressure medication, and lifestyle changes are required. If the risk prevails, bypass surgery or angioplasty may be needed.
Angina Pectoris is the pinching chest pain in the center of the chest due to insufficient blood supply to the heart. It may be described as a tightening, pinching, or suffocating chest pain.
This pain could last for minutes and may come and go from time to time. Emotional response, cold, heavy meals, or physical exertion could trigger it.
The possible treatment for this chest pain may be nitroglycerin or similar chemical medication.
Aortic Dissection is a rare condition in which the main artery, which is the inner layer of the aorta, tears in a way that hinders the body’s main blood supply. It could tear or completely separate from its outer layer.
This pain might be prominent in the back and the front of the chest. The pain initiates suddenly and can be difficult to bear. It travels from the chest and the back to the neck, jaw, and abdomen.
Emergency treatment and operation to repair the aorta is needed to prevent fatal results. At the same time, medications to lower blood pressure to avoid further tears are often required.
The heart is surrounded by a layer called the pericardium. If the pericardium gets inflamed, it causes a burning and stinging feeling in the chest. Every person feels different pain according to their condition and risk factors.
It is normally present in the center or the left side of the chest and may travel to the neck or the jaw. This pain may prevail from hours to days, depending on the severity.
Medications and lifestyle changes to prevent other diseases and to keep blood pressure at an optimum level are often required to treat this chest tightness.
Causes of Non-Cardiac Chest Pain
If you are feeling chest pain and it is not cardiac, it could be because of these Non-Cardiac reasons:
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is a general condition in which the stomach acid becomes uncontrolled and travels up to the esophagus, which may cause a burning feeling. You may experience a heavy chest while lying down in this condition.
This chest pain is usually felt in the lower chest area or the throat and may be felt behind the breastbone or rib cage. It is often triggered by spicy food, smoking, or caffeinated drinks.
Medications like antacids, H2 blockers, and proton pump inhibitors are needed to control acid reflux. At the same time, lifestyle changes and weight loss is adamant.
Pulmonary Embolism is a disease in which a blood clot is formed and travels to the lungs, which blocks a blood vessel. The pain is characterized as a sharp stabbing feeling in the center of the chest, which stays for several hours or more.
Additional symptoms can be regurgitation, nausea, persistent cough, and dizziness. The treatment options for these are blood thinners, blood clot removal, or oxygen therapy apart from the medications.
Costochondritis is when the cartilage that connects the ribs to the breastbone, called the costochondral Junction, gets inflamed. It is localized to the chest wall and may be felt as a stabbing pain. It is like a chest pain that comes and goes and may stay for several weeks or months.
It comes with other symptoms, such as tenderness or swelling in the arms, chest, or shoulders, and could be triggered by coughing, lifting heavy objects, and exercise.
Medications for the condition include pain relievers, anti-inflammatories, and corticosteroid injections.
A panic attack may feel like an extreme form of anxiety-heavy chest. It is caused by severe emotional stress, and the pain may start as a suffocating sensation and could morph into a stinging pain in the center or left of the chest to the neck and the back of the head.
Some may describe this form of chest pain as similar to the cardiac chest pain in angina. Treatment could be therapy, meditation, consultation, or anti-depressants in adverse conditions.
A rib fracture occurs when one or more of the ribs are broken or fractured, and it causes immense pain in the chest, which may be unbearable. The feeling lasts longer than hours and may stay even after the treatment until the rib is repaired completely.
The possible treatments are medications and surgery in extreme conditions.
Mixed Causes of Chest Pain
Apart from the cardiac and non-cardiac reasons, these could be the mixed chest pain causes:
Anxiety and Stress
Anxiety and emotional stress can cause chest pain, and an extreme form of it may turn into a panic attack chest pain.
Possible treatments are meditation, stress management, therapy, and consultation. Breathing techniques may also help in the direction of this chest pain.
Smoking and Obesity
Two of the most common causes of chest pain are smoking and obesity. Smoking can weaken the muscles of the lungs and hinder the health of the lungs.
On the other hand, obesity can cause muscle damage which acts as chest pain.
The common treatment for both is lifestyle changes and dietary modification.
The lungs are the main organ near the chest; any complications in the lungs may cause direct chest pain. It is necessary to consult a doctor or a specialist to identify the type of chest pain before moving on to treatment.
Extreme physical exertion could cause chest pain, which may increase with the increase in the exercise period. Breathing exercises and medications such as nitroglycerin may be beneficial.
Muscle and bone causes
Any complication in the muscles near the chest or a bone fracture may cause chest pain which may range in terms of intensity and feeling. Understanding the cause of the pain is the basic step needed to treat the pain.
Medication Side Effects
A tight sensation in the chest or familiar pain in the middle of the chest may be a side-effect of a medication you might be taking. They can be:
- ACE inhibitors
It is necessary to identify the cause of the pain, and you can consult your doctor to adjust the dose or change the medication.
Cardiac Chest Pain Vs. Non-Cardiac Chest Pain
You can identify the type of chest pain according to the location, duration, and kind of pain. Before deciding, it is necessary to note down other things that might trigger chest pain. Always consult a doctor before taking any medication.
Diagnoses for chest pain
You can get different diagnostic tests according to the symptoms or as prescribed by the doctor to identify the true cause of the chest pain. They could be:
A chest X-ray can help identify lung-related chest pains. It could be COPD, pneumonia, collapsed lung, or more.
It is a type of test that analyzes the heart’s electric activity and is used to point out the cardiac causes of chest pain.
Blood tests are used to diagnose inflammation. A series of blood tests may help with the identification and diagnosis.
Structural abnormalities can be identified and diagnosed through CT scans. These can be Aortic Dissection or Pulmonary Embolism.
Treatment For Chest Pain
Doctors often prescribe different medications according to the condition and symptoms. A few of the most common medicines that are prescribed are:
Nitroglycerin is among the most common medicines for anginal chest pain and tightening.
Anti-anxiety medication may also be in the form of anti-depressants. These medications are often used for panic attacks, chest pains, and anxiety-induced suffocation.
Analgesics or NSAIDS are often prescribed to patients when the chest pain is unbearable or causes more discomfort.
Bronchodilators are used to treat obstructions in the lungs. They may be useful in treating COPD, Bronchitis, and other pulmonary diseases.
When to Consult a Doctor?
You should consult a doctor when you feel persistent chest pain. Other things that might increase pain intensity are the dominant risk factors or diseases that may hinder your daily life.
Consult a doctor In order to get a right and early diagnosis of any deadly underlying cause that may appear in the form of chest pain. Your doctor will identify the root cause and help you to find the best treatment for fighting against the cause of pain.
FAQs About Chest Pain and Pressure Answered by Your Doctors Online Team.
Arrhythmia, Asthma, COPD, Angina, or any other CHD may cause tightness in the chest felt after exercise. You should contact a doctor if the condition worsens.
You might feel a tight sensation in the chest and difficulty breathing for several reasons. It could be physiological, psychological, or pathological.
Chest tightness can be relieved through medication, breathing exercises, or meditation. Chest tightness caused by any disease should be treated with a doctor’s consultation.
Anxiety is one of the most common causes of heaviness in the chest. You may feel suffocated or like someone is sitting on your chest. It can be relieved through therapy and consultation.
The proper way to handle this emergency is to stay calm and call for emergency help. Lying down for a while is advisable if you’re moving. Moreover, If you are prescribed any medicine for chest pain, you should take that according to the prescription.