Your chest cavity houses more than just your heart. It’s also home to your lungs, esophagus, thymus, tracheal tubes, and diaphragm, not to mention several bones, arteries, and muscles. So when you have chest pain, it could stem from a problem with any of these body parts or systems.
Often, chest pain is minor and nonthreatening, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it. Until you get a professional diagnosis, you can’t be sure if you’re dealing with temporary acid reflux or a serious coronary disease.
Dr. Yogesh Paliwal and our team at Indus Cardiology can help you get to the bottom of your chest pain using state-of-the-art diagnostic tools and evidence-based treatments that can reduce your symptoms, repair damage, and preserve your heart.
With three offices in West Covina, Montclair, and Pomona, California, Dr. Paliwal is well-known throughout the San Gabriel Valley for his contributions to clinical research in the fields of pulmonology, cardiology, pain management, and gastroenterology. Here, he offers some insight into the most common causes of chest pain.
Chest pain that doesn’t involve your heart
Not all chest pain points to your heart. In many cases, the pain stems from a condition completely unrelated to your heart. Possible non-heart-related problems include:
- Bruised or broken ribs
- Strained muscles
- Heartburn, a symptom of acid reflux or GERD
- Stomach ulcers
- Panic attacks
Although the pain from these conditions differs from the pain that occurs during a heart attack, if it’s your first time experiencing it, you may not be able to tell the difference. But we can. Come see Dr. Paliwal to find out exactly what’s causing your discomfort.
Heart-related chest pain
Any of several conditions can affect your heart and cause chest pain and other symptoms. The most common heart conditions include myocarditis, pericarditis, aortic dissection, heart valve disease, and coronary artery disease.
Myocarditis occurs when your heart muscles become inflamed. In addition to chest pain, myocarditis can cause arrhythmias, shortness of breath, fatigue, and leg swelling.
If a viral infection triggers myocarditis, you may also experience a fever, body aches, joint pain, and a sore throat.
Pericarditis occurs when the tissues surrounding your heart become inflamed. Most people describe the pain as sharp or stabbing, but you could also have dull, achy pain. Pericarditis pain often occurs in the left neck or shoulder, and it may get worse when you lie down, swallow food, or take a deep breath.
Aortic dissection occurs when the inner layers of the aorta — the large artery that carries blood from the heart to your body — tear. This is a rare condition that may feel like a heart attack or stroke and is just as serious.
Symptoms of an aortic dissection include sudden severe chest or upper back pain, shortness of breath, difficulty speaking, loss of vision, and loss of consciousness.
Heart valve disease
Heart valve disease occurs when one or more valves in your heart don’t work properly. It’s common to have chest pain, abdominal swelling, dizziness, shortness of breath, an irregular heartbeat, and swelling in your ankles and feet.
Coronary artery disease
The most common heart disease is called coronary artery disease, and it develops when fatty plaque builds up in your coronary arteries and blocks blood flow. This deprives your heart of oxygen and causes chest pain. This type of chest pain is called stable angina.
The difference between angina and a heart attack
Any activity that makes your heart work harder can lead to angina pain if your arteries are partially blocked. It typically occurs when you climb stairs, walk, or run, and the pain goes away as soon as you rest or take nitrate medication.
In contrast, a heart attack causes sudden chest pain with or without physical activity, and it doesn’t improve with rest. In fact, the symptoms get worse. With a heart attack, you’re also more likely to have other symptoms as well, such as pain in your jaw, neck, arm, or back, as well as shortness of breath, nausea, or lightheadedness.
Chest pain is an expected symptom of many different conditions, including some serious heart problems, but it’s never normal. To find out what’s causing your chest pain, call us at any of our three locations today to schedule a cardiology consultation with Dr. Paliwal.