Six most common causes of chest pain
One of the most dreaded symptoms you can have is chest pain. It's
easy to get scared when you experience chest pain, but it can be caused
by any number of issues - ranging from life-threatening to minor. It's a
frequent complaint by patients and my job is to decipher just how
serious it is, and what to do about it.
Here are the six most common reasons for chest pain, beginning with
Acute Coronary Syndrome
Acute Coronary Syndrome (ACS) is the new name used in the urgent care
setting for myocardial infarction, or heart attack.
The reason this is taken so serious is that it is still the leading
cause of death in adults. Each year millions will suffer a heart attack,
and nearly half of these will be fatal. Even worse-nearly half of the
men and more than half of the women who die of a heart attack had no
warning signs prior to the fateful day of their attack.
because of such terrible odds of dying from a sudden heart attack, most
are very fearful of chest pains. It's good to know the symptoms of a
heart attack because you have a much greater chance of survival if you
get modern treatment in an Emergency Room:
These are the typical symptoms: pain, fullness, tightness, squeezing
or heavy feeling of the left chest that lasts for more than 10 minutes.
Fatigue, light headedness, shortness of breath, nausea, sweating,
abnormal heartbeat, and anxiety often accompany chest pain. Headache,
upper back, left neck or jaw pain that feels dull, heavy, achy or deep
and lasting more than 10 minutes may be atypical symptoms. Women have
atypical symptoms more often than men. It can even be right sided
No symptoms at all (silent MI), which occurs in 25% of heart attacks,
most commonly in patients with diabetes mellitus.
With any of these symptoms, you'll need to get an electrocardiogram (ECG)
and blood testing for cardiac enzymes (markers of heart muscle damage)
to detect if it is a heart problem or not. It's interesting to note that
even if your chest pains do fit with ACS and you are hospitalised, still
your likelihood is low that it is a real heart attack.
A study 1reported in 2008 out of 1518 patients who were actually
admitted into the hospital with chest pain (not from trauma), only 15.7%
actually had chest pain consistent with cardiac origin.
So it's also good to know what kinds of chest pains are not at all
consistent with cardiac origin.
Here are the characteristics of these others causes of chest pain.
Pleurisy is inflammation of the sac surrounding the lungs. This chest
pain is a pleuritic pain, characterised by pain with each breath. If you
stop moving air in and out of your lungs this pain will momentarily
stop. It can be just left-sided and it usually lasts from hours to many
days. The treatment is time, an anti-inflammatory medicine, but not an
This is chest pain that originates from the spine or directly from
the ribs or muscles of the chest wall. The key finding here is that it
is tender to palpation over the area of the chest pain, unlike chest
pain of a heart attack. The treatment is usually time, an
anti-inflammatory medicine, or chiropractic intervention.
These pains are sharp and only last a few seconds. Movement of your
chest wall makes this worse, but it usually passes within 10 seconds or
less. I've never known what actually causes this, because there are no
tests to make the diagnosis.
This of course is a very common condition. It can make you feel you
are having a heart attack. The key difference here is that it is from
the upper stomach, is burning in nature, radiates to the mid back, and
is related to food...plus it can often be resolved very rapidly by
drinking a tablespoon of Maalox with Lidocaine liquid.
There's no doubt about it, anxiety is probably the most common cause
of chest pain.
Consider for a moment the part of your heart that is connected to
your thoughts and feelings. Because your body is a complex bio-feedback
system, fear and panic are classic causes for chest pain.
Moreover, when you experience intense worry, fear or anger for many
hours your body reacts in adverse physical ways. Headache, neck tension,
stomach acid or other intestinal symptoms, high blood pressure are just
the beginning symptoms. Over time intense fear or anger affects your
stress hormone cortisol too and your risk of a heart attack also
increases dramatically. It is well documented that stress, anger and
depression are independent risk factors for an unhealthy heart.
Hostility is known as the 'Achilles' heel' of the heart.
Now you know the many faces of chest pain and the symptoms that can
save your life
-Michael Cutler, M.D -Easy Health Options