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Burning Chest Pain

Burning Chest Pain

Many people get alarmed at the slightest signal of chest pain, assuming it could be heart trouble. But, it definitely need not be so every time, as there are several reasons that cause a burning sensation in the chest. This article tells you more...
Bidisha Mukherjee
Last Updated: Jan 24, 2018
Patient having pain in chest
A burning and painful sensation in the chest not only makes us uncomfortable, but puts us in a state of panic as well. These sensations can be experienced anywhere in the chest region, and at times may even be felt in other parts of the body, like the upper part of the abdomen, back or neck area. The origin of the pain and burning sensation is in the internal chest organs like the heart, lungs, esophagus, or in the muscles and tissues. The intensity of the burning sensation in the chest varies from mild to severe, depending upon the underlying causes.
Firstly, it is important to seek medical assistance to ascertain the exact cause behind chest pain, and let your doctor chart the next course of action. You may have to undergo various laboratory tests that may include blood tests, ECG, X-rays, and a CT scan of the chest for proper diagnosis. The treatment that follows will vary, depending on the cause/s.
Factors Causing Burning Chest Pain
There are several conditions that can cause a burning pain in your chest. In order to precisely identify its underlying cause, there are certain factors that have to be taken into account, like location and characteristics of the pain, along with its accompanying symptoms.
Heart Problems
Recurrent sensation of burning pain in the left side of the chest could point towards a heart problem like angina. It is caused due to an insufficient supply of blood and oxygen to the heart. The pain originates just behind the breast bone and gets extended to the left arm, shoulder, and even the jaw area. It is accompanied by tightness and a squeezing sensation in the chest. Similar symptoms are observed during the onset of a heart attack as well, but in this case, the pain is more intense. An inflammation or infection in the double-layered membrane surrounding the heart is termed as pericarditis and it gives a piercing chest pain along with low-grade fever. It can be a symptom of another serious condition known as aortic dissection, caused by a tear in the aorta, which is the main arterial vessel of the heart.
Lung Problems
If you're experiencing a burning pain in the chest while coughing or taking a deep breath, it could be an indication of lung disease. The reasons may be an infection in the lungs, pneumonia, pulmonary embolism caused by clotting of blood inside the lungs, or pleurisy caused by swelling in the lining of the lungs. Such pain is felt during asthma attacks as well, but it has some additional symptoms like shortness of breath and wheezing sound while breathing.
Digestive Problems
This kind of chest pain may also be associated with a number of digestive disorders. The burning pain caused due to heartburn is experienced just below the breast bone. In case the burning sensation is caused by stomach ulcers, then the pain intensifies when you're on an empty stomach, and is relieved as soon as you eat something. When the pain is caused due to a problem or inflammation in the gallbladder, it worsens after eating meals, particularly fatty or spicy meals.
Costochondritis
This occurs as a result of soreness and inflammation in the cartilage which connects the ribs and the chest bone, and leads to a burning pain within the chest wall. As the pain is mostly felt on the left side of the chest, it is often mistaken as a cardiac problem. The pain can be felt by touching the ribs and often gets aggravated when there is some movement of the torso.
Other Causes
A rib fracture or any traumatic injury that affects the soft tissues of chest muscles, tendons or nerves causes a burning sensation and pain in the chest, although, similar symptoms are also observed during panic attacks. Prior to the outbreak of a viral infection called shingles, one may experience a burning pain in the ribs.
Treatment for Pain and Burning Sensation in the Chest
  • Angina patients are prescribed different types of medicines that can break down the blood clots, prevent formation of new blood clots, and dilate the blood vessels. These medicines help restore normal blood supply to the heart.
  • A patient with symptoms of a heart attack is first rushed to the emergency room for preliminary treatment. Later on, the patient is usually kept under observation to determine the future course of action.
  • The pain and inflammation of pericarditis is controlled with the help of pain relieving medicines. Surgery is the most preferred option to rectify the problem of aortic dissection.
  • Chest pain with non-cardiac issues is usually treated with prescribed medication.
  • Treatment for digestive problems involves use of antacids and stomach acid blockers. Some dietary changes are also recommended.
  • Problems in the gallbladder may, at times, call for surgical removal of the organ. In case of gallstones, the patient may be given medicines that will dissolve them.
  • In pulmonary embolism, anticoagulant medication is used to prevent the formation of new blood clots, and if required, thrombolytics are given for faster dissolution of existing clots.
  • Pneumonia is treated with either antibiotics or antiviral medication. Its accompanying symptoms are treated with antipyretics and cough medicines.
  • For quick relief from asthma symptoms, bronchodilators are given to the patient. However, patients have to continue the use of corticosteroid inhalers to prevent future attacks.
  • Painful symptoms of costochondritis can be relieved with adequate amount of rest, heat application, and anti-inflammatory medicines.
  • Those suffering from emotional disorders are given anxiolytic medicines and are advised to learn relaxation techniques to control the frequency of panic attacks.
The moment you notice a burning chest pain, the first thing you should do is sit in a comfortable position and breathe slowly. Relax, and do not panic as it can worsen the situation. If you find that the pain is getting aggravated, call your doctor immediately. In case it subsides after a few minutes, you should not ignore the problem. Consult your doctor to identify the cause behind the chest pain, and undergo the procedure to resolve it.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.