Having pain in your chest isn’t always related to your heart – learn what might be causing your chest pain.
Having pain in your chest can be worrisome. You might feel sensations of burning, pressure, crushing or fullness, or you may experience a general uncomfortable feeling that tells you something is wrong. There are many causes of chest pain, and in most cases it’s important to get immediate medical help when you’re experiencing them. Although most people associate chest pain with heart problems, other systems in your body can also create chest pain symptoms you should be aware of.
1. Heart-Related Causes
Heart issues frequently cause chest pain. Coronary artery disease is the most common form of heart disease in the United States, and it causes less blood to flow into your heart. When this happens, you might experience sharp, stabbing pains known as angina. These sensations can spread from your chest to other areas of your body, such as your arms or back.
Heart attacks might be the health condition that people most frequently associate with chest pain. During a heart attack, blood may be completely unable to flow to your heart. This can feel like your chest is being crushed or squeezed. Call 911 immediately if you feel this type of chest pain.
2. Lung-Related Causes
If you experience lung (pulmonary) pain, it’s likely that you’ll also feel chest pain. One common cause is called pleurisy. Your lungs are covered in a thin membrane, and this membrane can become inflamed. When pleurisy inflammation happens, coughing or taking deep breaths can cause sharp pains and tenderness in your chest.
As with your heart, some lung-related pains can require emergency medical attention. Pulmonary embolism is one of these causes. This condition happens when a blood clot forms in one of the arteries in your lungs. Shortness of breath — accompanied by burning, aching or sharp pains in your chest — are symptoms of a pulmonary embolism.
3. Stress-Related Causes
When you’re stressed or anxious, you may feel extremely fearful, worried and restless. These emotions can create a feeling of tightness in your chest that makes it difficult to breathe. Extreme anxiety can cause a panic attack, which is a period of severe worry or fear. During a panic attack, chest pain can arise from heart palpitations, shortness of breath and the feeling of being smothered.
4. Digestion-Related Causes
Your digestive system includes your liver, stomach, pancreas and intestines. While these abdominal organs are responsible for processing the food you eat, they can also create pain in your chest. Heartburn is one of the most common digestion-related causes of chest pain. It has nothing to do with your heart, though. Instead, it happens when acid comes up from your stomach and into your esophagus. When the acid makes contact with your esophagus tissue, it causes a burning sensation in the upper part of your chest and neck.
Other digestive disorders can also cause chest pain. Your pancreas is the organ that creates the digestive enzymes that break down the food you eat. This organ can become inflamed, which is a condition known as pancreatitis. When this swelling happens, it can cause chest and back pain that worsens when you eat.
5. Muscle-Related Causes
If you’ve ever lifted weights at the gym before, you might be familiar with what muscle soreness feels like. This soreness can occur in the muscles in your chest when they become inflamed or torn, or when they experience trauma. Even coughing excessively or lifting something heavy incorrectly can cause chest pain related to muscle trauma. It may feel sharp or worsen when you perform movements that engage your chest muscles.
Learn about the heart and vascular services we offer at Mercy Health.