The thoracic cavity, which is commonly known as the chest cavity, is enclosed by the rib cage and contains the esophagus, trachea, nerves, blood vessels, bronchi, lungs, and the heart. Chest pain is likely to occur if any of these organs or structures get damaged. It would be wrong to think of chest pain to always be an indicator of a heart attack or other heart-related problems.
Chest pain could be caused due to a wide range of reasons. At times, the pain that is felt in the chest region may be a referred pain that may have originated in another part of the body. The non-cardiac causes of chest pain could be gastrointestinal, musculoskeletal, or psychological in nature.
Causes of Right-sided Chest Pain
Chest pain on the right side could occur due to the formation of gallstones, trauma to the right side of the rib cage, pneumonia, acid reflux disease, etc. Pain may even radiate to other parts of the body. The medical conditions that could cause right-sided chest pain include:
Gallbladder DiseasesGallbladder is a pear-shaped sac that stores and concentrates bile, a digestive juice that is composed of bile salts, pigments, and cholesterol. It releases bile onto the small intestine, whenever we consume a fatty meal. At times, bile pigments or cholesterol may crystallize to form stone-like deposits called gallstones. These could block the bile ducts, and cause pain in the right upper quadrant of the abdomen, nausea, vomiting, etc. At times, the pain could radiate to the chest. The use of bile acid supplements may prove beneficial when it comes to treating this condition, but the surgical removal of gallbladder may be suggested if the symptoms are severe.
Inflammation of the LiverInflammation of the liver could be caused due to a wide range of reasons. Liver could get inflamed due to viral infections such as hepatitis A and hepatitis C. Prolonged use of certain drugs could also be a contributory factor. Excessive consumption of alcohol is one of the most common reasons behind liver damage. Pain that is caused by liver damage could even be referred to the chest. More often than not, doctors recommend the use of anti-inflammatory drugs for treating an inflamed liver. In case of hepatitis, doctors may prescribe anti-viral drugs. Since alcohol abuse is a common contributory factor for liver damage, the affected individuals need to either quit alcohol or considerably cut down on the intake of alcohol.
Rib InjuriesChest pain is often felt when the ribs get damaged due to a blunt force trauma (hard blow to the chest), crush injury, fall from a height, or motor vehicle accidents wherein the chest gets slammed against the steering wheel. If the ribs on the right side of the rib cage get bruised, cracked or fractured due to an injury, the affected individual is likely to experience pain on the right side of the chest. An intercostal muscle strain could also give rise to chest pain. While the use of painkillers and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may be recommended, application of heating pads may also prove beneficial. The affected individual must refrain from indulging in strenuous physical activities that may worsen the condition.
CostochondritisCostochondritis refers to a medical condition that is characterized by the inflammation of the costal cartilages that attach the ends of the true ribs to the sternum. This condition could occur in event of repeated stress or trauma to the chest. Infection of the rib joint due to bacteria, viruses or fungi could also be a contributory factor. The affected individuals usually experience chest pain, that may worsen on laughing, sneezing, or coughing. Drug therapy coupled with rest will help in alleviating the symptoms.
PneumothoraxThe term 'pneumothorax' refers to the collection of air in the pleura, which is the space between the two-layered serous membrane structure. While the outer layer attaches to the chest wall, the inner layer lines the lungs. Accumulation of air within the pleural space causes pressure to build up over the lungs, and adversely affects the ability of the lungs to expand during inhalation of air. This can cause the lungs to collapse. The treatment of pneumothorax involves the removal of air through a needle attached to a syringe or chest tube that is attached to a suction device. Surgery may be recommended if the chest tube or needle procedure doesn't resolve the issue.
PleurisyInflammation of the pleura is medically referred to as pleurisy. The space between the pleural membranes is filled with a small amount of fluid. The fluid within these membranes helps these two layers to slide smoothly over each other as the lungs inflate and deflate. Pneumonia, upper respiratory infections, trauma, exposure to toxic substances, autoimmune diseases, etc., could lead to pleurisy. Chest pain that worsens while taking deep breaths or coughing, shortness of breath, and rapid breathing are some of the common symptoms of this condition. The use of painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs is often recommended for alleviating the symptoms. Antibiotics are recommended if the underlying cause is a bacterial infection. At times, the surgical drainage of the infected fluid is required.
PneumoniaPneumonia is an infection of the lungs that affects the alveoli, which are the microscopic sacs in the lungs wherein the exchange of air and carbon dioxide takes place. Pneumonia is usually caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites. Inhalation of certain environmental irritants could also be a contributory factor. Chest pain, shortness of breath, cough, fever, chills, muscle pain, etc., are some of the common symptoms of this lung infection. The treatment of pneumonia usually involves the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Antibiotics may be prescribed in case of bacterial pneumonia. Besides taking drugs, the affected individual must also take adequate rest and drink plenty of water.
Acid Reflux DiseaseAcid reflux disease is characterized by the regurgitation of the gastric juices or the contents of the stomach to the esophagus. This may give rise to a burning sensation or pain in the chest. While the use of antacids and prescription drugs may help, the affected individual must also avoid food items that may trigger heartburn.
Esophageal SpasmsPainful muscle contractions of the esophageal muscles could also give rise to a squeezing pain in the chest. The chest pain may also be accompanied by other symptoms such as difficulty in swallowing or a sensation of an object being lodged in the throat. The pain is often mistaken for angina. Calcium channel blockers and nitrates are often prescribed for treating esophageal spasms. Since spasms may sometimes be followed by acid reflux, food items that cause heartburn must not be consumed.
Psychogenic PainChest pain could also be attributed to an underlying psychological disorder. It may be experienced during a panic attack. Hyperventilation syndrome is a respiratory disorder that is characterized by deep and heavy breathing that may accompany a panic attack. It is believed that it may be triggered when a person is faced with stressful situations. The symptoms that may be experienced by an affected individual include chest pain, wheezing, shortness of breath, and a tingling sensation or loss of sensation around the mouth and the fingertips. While drug therapy may help to alleviate the symptoms, following deep breathing exercises and other relaxation techniques will also prove beneficial.
If you have been experiencing recurring episodes of pain, it would be best to consult a cardiologist to rule out the possibility of a heart problem. Certain diagnostic tests and imaging studies can also help to ascertain the underlying cause of chest pain on the right side. Whether the underlying cause is of a cardiac or a non-cardiac nature, medical assistance must be sought so as to ascertain the cause at the earliest.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.