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What Causes Chest Tightness?

By Paul Rothbart


Of all the aches and pains you can experience, tightness in the chest may be the most unsettling. You know there are vital organs in there including the heart. Most people will immediately wonder if they are having a heart attack. There are other things that can cause chest tightness and some are not nearly as serious as a heart attack. Educating yourself on what causes chest tightness and the other symptoms that can go with it can help you act properly should it happen.

When to Call for Help

Tightness in the chest is a symptom of a heart attack. It's important to know its other symptoms so you know when to call 911. If your chest tightness is accompanied by difficulty breathing or shortness of breath even when inactive, call for help immediately. If you are experiencing cold sweats or a burning sensation, these too are heart attack symptoms. Be mindful of pain and its location. If it radiates down your left arm, into your jaw or shoulder blades, you have an emergency situation. Other heart attack symptoms are nausea and the feeling of a tremendous weight on your chest. Do not take a chance with any of these symptoms. In fact, if you are at all in doubt about what is causing chest tightness, call 911.

Strained Muscle

A strained or pulled torso muscle can also cause tightness in the chest. This can be a pectoral, upper back, or upper abdominal muscle. The pain will tend to flare up when you are active and breathing may also make it hurt. In the case of a muscle strain, ice the area for 20 minutes and try not to use it. This can be difficult with a torso muscle and may require complete inactivity. See a doctor for a diagnosis and further treatment.

Broken Rib

If you've fallen or been involved in an accident and are experiencing tightness in the chest, it could be a fractured or broken rib. These injuries are extremely painful and make it difficult to move. Coughing can also increase the pain. If you have an increased heart rate or shortness of breath, seek emergency medical help. Otherwise, visit a doctor or hospital for X-rays, diagnosis, and treatment. 

Costochondritis 

When cartilage in the rib cage becomes inflamed, it causes a condition called costochondritis. It can cause discomfort, tightness, and pain on either side of the chest in the rib area. Movement and breathing may increase the pain. Taking ibuprofen or other NSAIDs can relieve the pain. For more intense pain, you may need to see a doctor for prescription meds.

Chest tightness is nothing to take lightly. It's important to know when you can just make an appointment with a doctor, and when you need emergency help. Know the symptoms related to each condition and never take a chance. If you suspect at all that you may be having a cardiac episode, call 911 immediately.

To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Mesquite, Tex.

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