Heart & Circulatory Health

Causes of Chest Pain Other Than Heart Attack

Written by
Dr. Mahmoud Ahmed Abelrahman Abouibrahim
and medically reviewed by iCliniq medical review team.

Published on Dec 07, 2017 and last reviewed on Sep 07, 2018   -  2 min read



Chest pain is one of the most common complaints encountered in the ER (emergency room) every day. Most of the patients panic as they think there is a serious problem with their heart. To what extent should we worry about it? When should we seek medical help for our chest pain?

Causes of Chest Pain Other Than Heart Attack

Before discussing the causes of chest pain, we have to be familiar with the general anatomy of the chest. Our chest is formed by skin, subcutaneous fatty layer, chest wall muscles, ribs, pleura (a layer that covers our lungs), lungs, esophagus, heart and neurovascular components.

Common Chest Pain Causes:

1. Herpes Zoster: burning in nature, this pain appears before the skin rash appears. It is associated with red skin vesicles grouped together in one site, seen usually in elderly persons but also common in young people with stressful conditions. It is treated conservatively, but sometimes pain medications help.

2. Breast abscesses in females: it is a red, tender, swollen lesion seen in some lactating mothers. An elective outpatient clinic visit is required and it is usually treated with antibiotics for a few days.

3. Gynecomastia: a palpable tender disc under the nipple of males, it is more common in adolescents. An outpatient clinic visit is required in this case and it is usually treated conservatively.

4. Musculoskeletal: it is a stabbing type of pain, very annoying, and is associated with tenderness, usually following trauma, abrupt violent movement, uncomfortable sleeping position or exposure to extreme cold weather. Treated conservatively, pain medications (systemic or local) could help depending on the severity.

5. Inflamed pleura: usually, it is a stabbing, localized pain that develops following a common cold or simple chest infection. Management is with some painkillers if needed.

6. Gastric reflux: central burning chest pain, usually after eating a meal, very common especially in obese. Antacids relieve the pain and so does changing your eating habits.

7. Inflamed pericardium (layer covering the heart): a persistent pain that increases with leaning forward, usually following upper respiratory infection but also could be due to other serious conditions of the kidney. Seek medical advice if it is persistent, in order to exclude more serious conditions.

8. Aortic dissection: Severe pain radiating to the back, central, associated with uncontrolled hypertension. Seek medical advice immediately.

9. Heart attack: compressing chest pain, dull aching, suffocating in nature, usually radiates to the left shoulder, sometimes to the jaw, and at times with epigastric pain. It is associated with risk factors such as smoking, diabetes, hypertension, high lipid profile and/or a family history. Seek medical advice immediately.

In Conclusion:

It is not always a chest pain related to a heart condition, although we should be aware of the following warning symptoms that require an immediate visit to the ER.

  • A compressing chest pain associated with effort, radiating to the left shoulder or jaw.
  • Epigastric compressing pain associated with effort.
  • Severe tearing central chest pain radiating to the back.
  • Any chest pain associated with syncope, racing heartbeats, excessive sweating or vomiting.
  • Any suspected chest pain in a patient with risk factors (diabetes, hypertension, smoking, high lipid profile and/ or family history of cardiovascular diseases).

For more information consult a cardiologist online --> https://www.icliniq.com/ask-a-doctor-online/cardiologist

Last reviewed at:
07 Sep 2018  -  2 min read




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