This article stresses the fact that "one should never neglect a chest pain that is too left-sided."
Man's natural tendency is to assume that there is no severe problem and ignore the symptoms. Many patients have met the doctor about 24 to 48 hours, some even three to four days, after the onset of chest pain. They said, "I just thought it was just gastric pain and took antacid, and it became fine." But actually, that first incident of chest pain itself would have been the first attack, and a much better treatment could have been given if the patient had presented earlier. Many patients even die when they visit the doctor and start the treatment.
These days we have been coming across many patients with heart attacks. Obviously, the main reason for this is the bad lifestyle and work culture where there is no scope or time for physical exercise. Even the diet of people is not healthy these days. This has resulted in a significant increase in the incidence of heart attacks. This article is not about how to change lifestyle or diet. It is about how to recognize or what to do when there is chest pain.
1. Heartburn and Acid reflux:
When the digestive acid present in the stomach moves upward into the esophagus, it is called acid reflux. Reflux of stomach contents can happen after eating, lying down, or waking up. As a result of this, heartburn occurs. This is because the esophagus (food pipe) has a mucosal lining that gets irritated by the stomach's acidic contents.
Heartburn is a chest pain that is most commonly accompanied by other symptoms like:
Sour and acidic taste.
Burning sensation in the chest or upper abdomen.
Reflux of the contents to the throat.
In some cases, this can turn into a more serious condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The below symptoms will be seen in addition to the chest pain in GERD:
Difficulty in swallowing.
Persistent dry cough.
2. Esophageal Conditions:
Conditions affecting the esophagus can also bring about left-sided chest pain.
The following are the esophageal conditions:
Esophagitis - As the name suggests, it is an inflammatory condition of the esophagus. It can be distinguished from cardiac causes with the help of the below symptoms:
Blood in vomit.
Blood in stools.
Pain becomes more evident with food intake.
Esophageal Muscle Spasms - Spasms of the muscles of the food pipe can also cause left-sided chest pain. Distinguishing it from cardiac causes is problematic since, in most cases, it often resembles the pain caused by a heart attack. Seek the help of a healthcare provider immediately to rule out the cardiac causes.
Esophageal Rupture - Leakage of stomach contents into the chest cavity can happen with rupture or tear of the esophagus. Chest pain associated with this type of condition can range from mild to severe and is associated with symptoms like:
Nausea and vomiting.
Sometimes vomit might contain blood.
Also called collapsed lung, it is a condition in which there is air leakage into the cavity between the lung and the chest wall. The cause of pneumothorax is usually trauma or any other disease. It can involve either a portion or the entire lung. Pneumothorax also causes chest pain, which is sudden in onset and sharp in nature. However, this type of chest pain can occur on both the left and right sides. The below symptoms accompany it:
Bluish discoloration of the skin.
4. Pulmonary Hypertension:
An increase in the blood pressure of the lungs is called pulmonary hypertension. Other symptoms include:
Pneumonia is a progressive condition that often follows a respiratory infection like bronchitis or influenza. A stabbing type of chest pain characterizes it. In addition, the following manifestations are seen:
Chest pain that increases with cough or deep breathing.
A persistent cough that is at times accompanied by mucus secretion.
6. Pulmonary Embolism:
Pulmonary embolism is a blood clot in the pulmonary arteries that bring about a blockage. The symptoms of pulmonary embolism are:
Sudden and sharp pain in the chest.
7. Lung Cancer:
Chest pain is an essential manifestation of lung cancer. However, the side of pain depends on the lung affected. Manifestations of lung cancer include:
Shortness of breath.
Recurrent episodes of pneumonia.
Persistent coughing accompanied by blood or mucus.
Effortless weight loss.
Injury to the muscles of the chest or rib cage can cause them to strain or sprain, which can cause pain that usually aggravates with deep breathing or coughing. In case of trauma to the chest, the following can be seen:
Bruises are present on the chest wall.
Fracture of the sternum or bones in the rib cage.
9. Hiatal Hernia:
When the upper part of the stomach pushes through the diaphragm, it results in a hiatal hernia. As a result, an opening occurs in the diaphragm, which causes a bulge in the chest wall. Symptoms associated with hiatal hernia are:
Pain in the abdomen.
10. Panic Attack:
Sudden episodes of fear or anxiety attacks caused by no actual cause are called panic attacks. It brings several physical symptoms, including chest pain that often mimics a heart attack. Other symptoms include:
Shortness of breath.
Rapid heart rate.
Extensive fear or anxiety.
A sense of detachment from reality.
Cardiomyopathy is characterized by enlargement of heart muscles that bring about difficulty in pumping. Cardiomyopathy presents with:
Shortness of breath.
Swelling of the extremities.
As the name implies, myocarditis is the inflammation of the cardiac muscles, which can weaken and cause long-lasting damage to the heart's muscles. In addition, it alters the rhythmical functioning of the heart. Symptoms of myocarditis include:
Angina is nothing but chest pain caused by coronary artery disease. As a result of coronary artery disease, blood flow to the heart muscles is compromised, which brings about discomfort and chest pain. In this case, there can be:
Radiating pain and discomfort in the arms, neck, and back.
Tightness in the chest.
In general, the heart is surrounded by two layers of the pericardium. Inflammation of the pericardium is called pericarditis. It is characterized by:
Stabbing chest pain.
Radiating pain in the shoulders.
15. Heart Attack:
A heart attack occurs when a reduced blood supply damages the cardiac muscles. The following are the symptoms of a heart attack:
Left-sided chest pain.
Radiating pain in the left arm.
Pain in the abdomen, jaws, neck, or back
Nausea and vomiting.
Left-sided chest pain can occur due to a number of reasons. The severity of the cause can range from mild to severe. However, since most of the accompanying symptoms of left-sided chest pain are almost similar, taking a chance is unacceptable. Whatever be the intensity or duration of pain, reaching out to a healthcare provider is always recommended. This is because distinguishing between the pain and identifying the causes is not feasible.
So, everyone should remember this. "NEVER NEGLECT A CHEST PAIN. " More so if it is:
Squeezing type of pain or heaviness in the chest.
Radiation of pain to the left arm or neck.
Associated with sweating or dizziness.
Nausea and vomiting.
Even if these factors are not there, it is advisable to consult a doctor if you experience chest pain (even at midnight). The other precaution that can be taken is to take tablet Ecosprin 325 mg immediately once you experience chest pain. But again, do not just sit at home after taking the pill; go to the doctor as soon as possible.
Mastering the medical diagnosis is not a cakewalk for the general public. Therefore, sticking to the physician's advice is only recommended, especially when it concerns life. Be it mild or severe, be it for a short-term or a long-term, be it any time of the day, seek the help of a healthcare provider to rule out the severe causes or get prompt treatment.
The left side of the chest can be a sign of a heart-related problem, so some people may think they are having a heart attack when it occurs. However, left-sided pain can also occur in less serious problems, like reflux, excess intestinal gas, or an anxiety attack.
Non-cardiac-related chest pain can be due to various reasons, including gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), lung problems, musculoskeletal injuries, stress, anxiety, and depression.
Generally, it is hard to differentiate between heart pain that does not originate from the heart and actual cardiogenic pains. However, noncardiac chest pain can be seen as associated with swallowing, changing body position, and respiration.
Chest pain caused by the strain in the muscle can be identified by the symptoms like an intense pull or chronic pain in the chest region, swelling, trouble moving the injured area, bruising, and pain while breathing.
Left-sided chest pain can also be caused due to anxiety, and any chest pain that occurs due to anxiety can last up to 10 minutes, while other chest pains can last longer.
In most anxiety-related chest pain cases, the pain will develop quickly and lasts about 10 minutes. However, if the chest pain is not going away or increasing gradually, it could be a sign of a heart attack requiring immediate medical attention.
Heart blockage can be identified at home with the signs and symptoms of a heart attack, including chest pain or pressure, shortness of breath, shoulder or arm pain, and sweating. People can also have less typical symptoms, such as nausea, neck or jaw pain, and fatigue.
Chest pain caused due to intestinal gas can cause general tightness in the chest area, belching, indigestion, loss of appetite, bloating, voluntary or involuntary passing of excess gas that relieves pain, and pain that shifts to different parts of the abdomen.
Stress and anxiety can trigger hormone releases, like adrenaline and cortisol. This can increase blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing difficulty. Additionally, the chest muscles can tighten, and the throat may constrict and cause chest pain.
Anxiety-related chest pain usually fades away in about 10 minutes. However, other anxiety-related symptoms can last more than an hour after the pain improves.
Suppose the chest pain is associated with sweating, shortness of breath, fainting, irregular heartbeat, nausea or vomiting, and pain in the back, neck, upper abdomen, jaw, arm, or shoulder; in that case, immediate medical attention is required.
Chest pain can signify serious heart problems like a heart attack; it can cause serious complications and even be fatal if proper treatment is not provided.
Symptoms like sweating, shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, light-headedness or fainting, irregular heartbeat, and pain in the back, jaw, arm, upper abdomen, or shoulder can signify serious heart problems.
Chest pain related to the muscles, the digestive system, or psychological factors can arise and subside every few minutes or over several days. But chest-related heart pain does not go away without proper treatment.
If a person has chest pain, stop the activity and rest, apply ice or a cold pack to the chest area, keep the chest elevated, and compress the chest with an elastic bandage but do not wrap it too tightly; these methods can relieve noncardiac chest pain.
Last reviewed at:
17 Jun 2022 - 6 min read
Query: Hello doctor, I am feeling bloated (gas in the stomach), heaviness in the chest, feeling that there is phlegm in the throat. When burping or belching, I felt relieved and fine. But after a while, the above symptoms appear again. I am a 60-year-old female with hypertension and I am currently taking... Read Full »
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