Chest Pain: Possible Causes

Thoracic pain is pain that occurs in the chest but can also arise in organs outside the chest. The causes are very diverse and can be cardiological or non-cardiological in origin. In today’s article, you can learn more about possible triggers and symptoms. 

Chest pain: possible causes

When chest pain  is referred pain in the chest area between the neck and abdomen. However, the pain can arise in another area and project onto the thorax. They can also be expressed by uncomfortable pressure on the chest.

Chest pain can come from the esophagus, chest wall, muscles, ribs, or nerves. They can also radiate onto the neck, arms or into the head area.

Sometimes the pain starts in the back and then projects onto the chest area. This depends on the underlying diseases that trigger the unpleasant symptoms. However, chest pain only refers to those complaints that are actually expressed in the chest area,  even if they originate from other areas.

Many fear this type of pain  as it is mostly associated with heart ailments. Around 5% of patients in the emergency department suffer from chest pain. In children, this percentage is lower: only about 1% of the visits to the emergency doctor in this case are due to pain in the chest area:

Chest pain: organic causes

Chest pain can be divided into two broad groups: cardiovascular and other complaints. Doctors can quickly differentiate whether the pain requires immediate treatment or whether it is not an emergency. 

First, let’s take a closer look at the causes of cardiovascular chest pain. Then we go into other possible causes.

Cardiovascular-induced chest pain

  • Ischemic Disease: Chest pain is a major symptom of angina and a heart attack. If the pain is very intense and debilitating, and there is also a feeling of pressure on the chest, it could be a very serious emergency! The pain starts from the heart area and spreads to the arms or neck.
  • Aortic tear: Although the main artery has a very thick wall that can withstand high pressure, a tear can still occur. This clinical situation is rare and produces very intense pain. Aortic dissection is also a serious clinical emergency that requires immediate treatment.
  • Pericarditis:  The pericardium, or pericardium, surrounds the heart and can become inflamed for a variety of reasons. One then speaks of an inflammation of the pericardium or pericarditis, which manifests itself with pain in the chest area. The pain can be intermittent and may be weaker or stronger depending on the position.

    Pulmonary chest pain

    • Pneumonia: Microbial pneumonia also causes chest pain. These can be continuous and intensify when coughing or breathing. In general, the pain manifests itself in the side of the inflammation.
    • Pulmonary embolism:  The arteries and veins in the breathing system can become blocked with a blood clot, causing pulmonary embolism. Blood clots can form directly in the lungs or get into the blood vessels in the lungs. It is  a very urgent medical emergency. 
    • Pneumothorax:  In a pneumothorax, air enters the pleural space, the space between the chest wall and the lungs. This is very painful and comes with symptoms such as dyspnoea.
    • Pleurisy:  In this case, there is inflammation of the pleura. As with pericarditis, this also leads to intermittent pain and can intensify when changing position.
      Pulmonary chest pain
      Chest pain can be caused by the esophagus, but there are other triggers as well.

      Chest pain that arises in the digestive system

      • Esophageal spasm: The esophagus connects the mouth with the stomach. It is a hollow organ with a muscle wall that can contract like a spasm. A cramp causes pain in the chest area that prevents food from passing through.
      • Gastritis:  The pain caused by gastritis or other digestive problems can sometimes project into the chest area. In addition to pain, gastritis also manifests itself as belching, heartburn and nausea. In the case of reflux disease, the acid gets into the esophagus and often causes very unpleasant discomfort in the chest area.
      • Biliary lithiasis:  When there are stones in the gallbladder, it usually manifests itself as abdominal pain. But the pain can also spread to the chest area. Depending on the anatomical position of the gallbladder and the stones, some patients suffer from colic, which can be felt in the right lung area or even in the right shoulder.
      Chest pain from heart disease, diagnosis
      For chest pain, an electrocardiogram can help diagnose the cause.

      Other causes of chest pain

      As already mentioned,  not only organs in the chest and abdominal area can trigger chest pain. It is very important to find out the exact cause of the pain as it could be an emergency. However, other complaints could also be hidden behind it. Some examples of this are:

      • Psychogenic causes:  Panic attacks can also lead to chest pain. So it is possible that the symptoms are caused by psychological problems rather than physical illness. There is a feeling of strong pressure on the chest and other complaints that are not directly related to an organ.
      • Costochondritis:  This is an inflammation at the junction between cartilage and bone in one or more ribs. Possible causes for this are trauma or overexertion. The treatment is simple. Anti-inflammatory drugs and local cold applications are typically used.
      • Myalgia:  The muscles between the ribs that make up the walls of the chest can also be painful. The causes for this can be of a traumatic nature: for example, a contusion or distortion. In this case, an anti-inflammatory drug is usually used as well.
      • Neuritis:  The nerves that run between the ribs can become inflamed and cause chest pain. A classic example is herpes zoster. This viral infection leads to very intense pain and a burning sensation, which is expressed along the affected nerve tract.

      Related Articles

      Leave a Reply

      Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

      Back to top button