Any pain, pressure, tightness, or discomfort in the body, from the neck to the upper abdomen can be called chest pain. The source can be any organ in the body along the front such as the esophagus, heart, stomach, lungs, ribs, etc. Oftentimes, it is associated with discomfort in the jaw, arms, and head.
Common Causative Factors
Chest pain can be caused due to cardiac or non-cardiac reasons. Even a prolonged cough could cause this condition. Continuous coughing results in muscle strain, whereby the chest wall becomes tender. In several cases, it is observed as a symptom for severe health complications, which at times require immediate medical attention.
Angina is one of the causes, which is related to the heart, and the associated discomfort is more or less similar to a heart attack. It is caused due to the insufficient supply of blood and oxygen to the heart. There are two types of angina, viz. stable and unstable. If the pain starts during physical exertion, then it is called stable angina. Pain that occurs unexpectedly is called unstable angina, and it is more severe than the former.
As the name suggests, heartburn is caused due to an acidic reflux from the stomach to the esophagus. Symptoms of heartburn or pyrosis is a burning and painful sensation beneath the sternum.
A common belief is that, an aching chest is the onset of a heart attack. When a person gets a heart attack, the blood flow is blocked due to a blood clot in an artery that supplies blood to the heart. In such a condition, the heart muscle does not receive blood and oxygen, causing distress.
Separation of the inner layers of the aorta (main artery of heart) is called aortic dissection, which disturbs the blood flow and causes internal bleeding. The symptom is a sudden and sharp pain in the chest, which is usually associated with backache. Aortic dissection occurs rarely and is caused due to uncontrollable high blood pressure or a sharp blow to the thorax region.
Individuals with this disorder face problems in swallowing, due to uncoordinated muscles in the esophageal wall that direct the food towards the stomach.
Problems in the digestive system such as indigestion, gallbladder disease, gallstone, and stomach ulcer can also cause the chest to ache. The severity may vary depending upon the disease condition.
Other factors include shingles, anxiety, pneumonia, hemothorax, asthma, panic attack, and lead poisoning. The symptoms can be mild to severe and may last from a few days to few weeks. In case of persons who have a family history of cardiac diseases and who get chest pain frequently, they should consult and seek advice from a qualified physician as soon as possible.
Whatever may be the symptom, proper diagnosis is always required, as the underlying medical problem may be trivial or life-threatening. Diagnosis is done based on the symptoms, physical examination, and the medical history of the patient. Electrocardiogram (ECG) studies and blood tests (to analyze cardiac enzymes) are usually done to evaluate the cause. Treatment depends upon the disease that has been diagnosed.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.