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Causes of Chest Tightness

Chest tightness can be a symptom of overexertion or gas. However, it is also a symptom of coronary heart disease. This HealthHearty article presents some common causes of tightness in chest, a symptom that should not be ignored. Continue reading for more details.
HealthHearty Staff
Last Updated: Feb 2, 2018
A feeling of tightness in chest accompanied by shortness of breath can be a signal of an underlying heart problem. The feeling of pain in between the neck and upper abdomen in the front of the body is known as chest pain. You may get a feeling of squeezing, crushing, heavy pressure, or tightness inside the chest. This can happen due to many reasons. It might be because of some cardiac problems, respiratory distress, excess of gas, or overexertion.
Not all chest pain is a sign of heart disease, so don't panic. Tightening in chest is always not a sign of an impending heart attack. Though, it is mostly related to some cardiac or lung problems.
Angina: Insufficient supply of blood or oxygen to the heart gives rise to this condition. Angina is also a symptom for other problems like heart attack, stroke, etc. Blood vessels, blocked by fat or cholesterol, lead to angina. So, severe chest pain should not be ignored, and the patient should immediately be shifted to an emergency room. A fat-free and low cholesterol diet, and regular exercise can help prevent worsening of the condition.
Panic Attack: Panic attacks are generally experienced when under stress. The attack causes pressure on the chest muscles and tautness. Along with the tightening of the chest, it often leads to tightening of the throat, perspiration, anxiety, restlessness, shaking of the body, and increase in heart rate. These are the common symptoms of panic attack, which are similar to heart attack symptoms. The difference is of the radiating pain that is experienced during a heart attack, and not during a panic attack. Also, the feeling of tightness persists throughout the day, whereas in case of a heart attack, it is all of a sudden.
Bronchitis: Fatigue, shortness of breath, and chest discomfort are some of the common symptoms of bronchitis. There can be a feeling of inflammation in the airway passage.
Digestive Disorder: If you are experiencing chest tightness after eating, then some kind of digestive disorder is likely to be the cause. The pain and pressure on the chest gives a feeling of tightness, which tends to move upwards in the arms and back. It is often caused by digestive disorders like heartburn, excess gas, pancreatitis, formation of gallstones, etc. The tightness inside your chest on the right side is also often related to digestive system disorders, pulmonary embolism, and pneumothorax (air is trapped between a lung and the chest wall).
Heart Attack: An impending heart attack is a very serious cause of chest tightening that can be felt at the center of the chest. A mild pain is observed that slowly tends to aggravate and move towards the left arm, shoulder, jaw, back, and neck. These symptoms should not be ignored. Prompt medical treatment can help reduce the amount of heart damage.
Sleep Disorder: The two most common types of sleep disorders that give rise to the uneasy, tight feeling in chest are sleep paralysis and sleep apnea. Sleep paralysis refers to a condition wherein a temporary inability to move or speak while falling asleep or upon waking is experienced. In sleep paralysis, the pressure in the chest is felt in the middle of the sleep at night. One may start feeling that he is not able to move the body. In sleep apnea, the patient is unable to breathe for a small duration due to nasal blockage. This sometimes results in that tight pressure that you feel on your chest. If these two disorders are observed very frequently, then one should immediately consult a doctor.
There are some other reasons like asthma, allergies, pneumonia, emphysema, and pleurisy that can lead to chest tightness. Apart from these situations, tightening in chest during pregnancy is also quite common. Pregnant women experience it due to indigestion, anemia, calcium deficiency, and stress.
Shortness of breath and tightness in chest should not be ignored or taken lightly, because the condition might take a serious form if left untreated for a longer period of time. However, make sure that you do not panic in such conditions, otherwise they might become worse. Immediately consult the doctor for the appropriate treatment. Above all, eat healthy and exercise regularly to avoid these kinds of situations.
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.