You should get medical help right away if you have chest pain of any kind. It’s natural to panic and assume the worst whenever your chest hurts, but this isn’t always the case.
According to Jeremy Pollock, MD, a Board-Certified Cardiologist at the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center, “chest pain does not necessarily signify a heart attack or even heart pain.” After ruling out the most serious causes of chest pain—a heart attack, aortic dissection, or pulmonary embolism—a doctor will investigate other potential causes, as Pollock explains.
There is a wide spectrum of severity among the potential non-heart attack causes of chest discomfort. There are a total of nine, and Pollock will go over each one with us now.
Pneumonia, a lung infection, is a possible cause of your chest pain. According to Pollock, “pneumonia generates pus or fluid buildup, which can induce chest pressure or pain.”
Also contributing to chest pain, as mentioned by Pollock, are bronchitis and pleurisy (inflammation of the membranes around the lungs).
2. A collapsed lung
Pneumothorax, often known as a collapsed lung, is a medical emergency that can lead to abrupt, severe chest pain and breathing difficulties, similar to those experienced during a heart attack, as noted by Pollock.
Furthermore, crepitus of the chest might be caused by a collapsed lung. The physician describes the sound as a “strange crackling or popping sensation” that may be mistaken for a heart attack to someone who has never experienced either disease.
3. Pulmonary hypertension
Pulmonary hypertension, or high blood pressure in the lungs, is another possible reason for chest pain.
According to Pollock, “[Pulmonary hypertension],” which is caused by the narrowing of blood vessels in the lungs, can produce symptoms similar to those of a heart attack, including chest discomfort, dizziness, and shortness of breath.
4. Lung cancer
When a person has lung cancer, their lung cells multiply rapidly and out of control. Due to the proliferation of tumors, breathing becomes increasingly difficult.
According to Pollock, “chest pain may be a symptom of lung cancer that has progressed into the chest wall.”
5. Heartburn or digestive issues
According to Pollock, chest pain can be triggered by any condition that causes discomfort in the digestive system or its surrounding areas.
The doctor notes that conditions such as reflux, ulcers, esophageal spasms, and hernia “may generate chest discomfort akin to that of a heart attack.”
Pericarditis, an infection of the lining around the heart, can produce severe, unexpected chest pain. This, as explained by Pollock, occurs whenever the layers of the pericardium brush against one another, such as during coughing or movement.
Pain and shortness of breath are symptoms he describes as being common with myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle.
7. A muscle pull
Chest pain, whether from a muscular strain or a bruised rib, can be excruciatingly uncomfortable, but it can also be a welcome sign that something is finally breaking.
Pollock adds that rib or cartilage inflammation, known as costochondritis, can also cause significant discomfort in the chest.
8. A rheumatologic infection
Pollock notes that “extreme discomfort in the chest area can be caused by rheumatologic illnesses such as shingles, lupus, and sarcoidosis (an autoimmune inflammatory disease).
Chest discomfort and difficulty breathing may be the result of one of these infections.
The emotional toll of chest pain shouldn’t be minimized. Pollock believes that anxiety and panic attacks are frequent reasons for chest pain.
The cardiologist said that anxiety-related chest pain can be treated, but cautioned that it was vital to see a doctor to rule out other causes.
While all of the aforementioned can cause chest pain, differentiating between them is done through the presence of additional symptoms.
To detect or rule out those life-threatening illnesses, provide prompt treatment, and provide appropriate pain relief, “it is imperative that you seek professional counsel as soon as possible,” Pollock says.