8 Common Causes of Chest Pain That Have Nothing to Do With Your Heart
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When you feel chest pain, it’s natural to panic, fearing for your heart health. Cardiovascular disease remains the number one killer of men and women everywhere.
However, many causes of an achy midsection don’t have anything to do with your ticker. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek medical attention, only that this organ shouldn’t be your first concern if you feel otherwise healthy. Here are eight common causes of chest pain that have nothing to do with your heart.
1. Acid Reflux
One common cause of chest pain is gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). If you have this condition, stomach acid pours back into your esophagus instead of staying where it belongs, which can irritate this tube’s lining.
Some lifestyle factors, such as smoking and obesity, increase your risk of GERD. While weight loss isn’t easy, even shedding a few extra pounds could help. So can kicking the butts — you can find free resources available online to help you quit.
Likewise, making adjustments like not lying down soon after a hearty meal can decrease symptoms. In severe cases, both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications can help.
Your gallbladder lies near your liver and secretes a digestive enzyme called bile. It releases this substance into your small intestine through a series of ducts.
However, sometimes, these digestive enzymes harden into stones ranging from the size of a sand grain to a golf ball. If they get caught, the pain often radiates right between your shoulder blades. In some cases, the sensation expands to your chest.
The good news is, the problem isn’t with your heart. The bad news is, it’s your lungs. You also need these vital organs to survive, so don’t count your blessings just because your ticker is okay.
Pneumonia causes the tiny air sacs in your lungs to fill up with fluid, sometimes to the point where you can’t breathe. The illness connected to the current pandemic was originally called novel coronavirus-infected pneumonia because of the deadly results. The current COVID-19 moniker stands for coronavirus disease 2019 — yes, it’s been here for nearly a year, if not more.
Another non-heart-related cause of chest pain is bronchitis. Your bronchi are the tubes that carry air back and forth from your lungs. While many cases of the disease are acute, meaning they clear up, the condition can become chronic, which sometimes occurs in long-term smokers.
Anything that causes wheezing or shortness of breath lasting more than three weeks deserves the attention of a doctor. However, those with chronic bronchitis from smoking do face increased heart disease risks and should seek medical attention to rule out heart trouble.
5. Bruised or Broken Ribs
Like any other area of your body, you can bruise your ribs. When this occurs, you’ll probably notice the blotch. However, you could have a small crack in one of these bones that only causes pain when you move a certain way.
Fortunately, doctors can detect broken ribs with an X-ray. Unfortunately, though, there isn’t much they can do to treat them other than keep you immobile. Since you have to breathe, expect the smallest cough or sneeze to bring agony until you heal.
6. Pulled Muscles or Connective Tissue
Likewise, you could suffer injury to your muscles or the connective tissue holding your ribs in place. Your first seven ribs connect to your sternum through your costal cartilage, and if this becomes torn, it can feel like your chest ripping in two.
Your chest pain might originate from going too hard on the bench press machine at the gym. If you suspect a muscular injury, give yourself time to heal. Make sure you build adequate rest time into your workout schedule if you perform vigorous activities.
Shingles arise from the same virus that causes chickenpox. However, unlike the milder childhood form of the disorder, this disease causes a patch of raised dots often on the side of your trunk. It is not contagious to those who have already had chickenpox, although it might cause the uninitiated to get the milder form.
Fortunately, you can now get a shingles vaccine. While there isn’t a single shot against chickenpox, the combination MMRV vaccine now prevents it.
8. Panic Attacks
Anyone who has ever experienced a panic attack knows the real physical misery these events cause. One of the problems with these episodes is differentiating between psychological terror and the physiological impact. Please seek medical attention if you are unsure — otherwise, the uncertainty could make the condition worse.
While you can’t prevent all panic attacks, stress management techniques can help. Adopt practices such as yoga and meditation to ease tension. Stay away from unhealthy substances like alcohol that promise temporary relief, but at a steep price.
Prioritize Chest Pain Care — but Know It Might Not Be Your Heart
Any unexplained causes of chest pain merit a run to the ER to rule out potential heart trouble. However, know your risk — if you have any of the above conditions, your ache might not have anything to do with your ticker.