Causes of Chest and Abdominal Pain

What causes chest and abdominal pain?

Chest pain can be caused by many things, but it’s most likely due to one or more of the following:

1) Heart Attack – This is the leading cause of death from cardiovascular disease (CVD).

A heart attack occurs when your blood supply to part of your heart muscle becomes blocked. This blockage results in a sudden drop in blood flow to the heart muscle. If left untreated, the resulting damage can lead to cardiac arrest.

2) Arrhythmia – An abnormal rhythm is when your heartbeat does not keep within a certain range of speed.

For example, if your heart beats too fast, then it may cause chest pain. On the other hand, if your heart beats too slow, then it will result in dizziness or fainting.

3) Infection – Sometimes bacteria or viruses enter into the bloodstream and cause inflammation of organs such as the lungs and kidneys.

These infections can affect any organ in the body.

4) Injury – Any injury to your internal organs can cause chest pain.

Although the pain will usually disappear over time, it can cause other complications as well. Some of these complications include internal bleeding and organ damage.

5) Esophageal Disorders – This involves a lot of burning sensations in the chest due to complications with getting food down into the stomach.

It can be either a problem with swallowing or acid reflux.

6) Lung Disorders – Perhaps you have an illness that affects the lungs.

For example, pneumonia is a condition caused by a virus or bacteria. Pneumonia can cause difficulty with breathing and shortness of breath.

7) Pericarditis – This is an inflammation of the sac (called the pericardium) that surrounds your heart.

The condition causes chest pain when you breathe deeply or cough. On rare occasions, it can be caused by a more serious underlying disorder such as rheumatic fever.

8) Muscular Pain – You could have a strain or sprain in your chest muscles.

This pain is similar to that which you feel after a hard work-out. You may experience a dull, deep ache in the area. Your pain may increase with activity and decrease with rest.

9) Reflux – With this condition, your stomach acid backs up into the food pipe (esophagus).

This can cause a burning pain in the chest area. The burning sensation is caused by the highly acidic nature of the stomach acid.

10) Pneumothorax – In this condition, air builds up in the lining surrounding your lungs. This causes the lungs to collapse and leads to shortness of breath. As a result, you may feel a stabbing pain in your chest with every breath you take.

11) Muscular Tension – You may have a case of the “jitters” or experience anxiety. When this occurs, your body experiences tension all throughout. This can have an effect on your chest muscles and cause a burning sensation in this area.

12) Strep Throat – Sometimes a sore throat is more than just a sore throat. If you have strep throat, then you may also experience pain in your chest. This is because strep causes the skin in your throat to become inflamed.

When you swallow, this can irritate the lining of your throat and cause a sharp pain to radiate into the chest area.

13) Costochondritis – This is an inflammation of the cartilage that connects your ribs to your sternum (breastbone). With costochondritis, you experience shortness of breath and sharp chest pains on the upper chest wall.

14) Pregnancy – During late pregnancy, the weight of the baby can cause pressure on the diaphragm. This can decrease the amount of oxygen getting to the lungs. As a result, you may feel pain when taking a deep breath.

15) Blood Clot – If a blood clot travels to your chest and becomes lodged in one of your arteries, it can cause a partial blockage. This decreases the blood supply to the affected area and causes chest pain.

16) Tietze’s Syndrome – This is a benign condition that causes pain in your ribs, specifically in the cartilage that connects them. With Tietze’s Syndrome, you experience sharp pain when breathing or coughing.

17) Pericoronitis – This is an infection of the gum tissue around one of your teeth. It usually occurs after an untreated cavity. With pericoronitis, you may experience pain with chewing and even talking.

This pain can extend to your ears and temples. In addition, you may have a high fever.

18) Muscular Dystrophy – Your chest muscles may ache due to a muscular dystrophy (muscle disorder) or post-polio syndrome (condition that follows polio infection).

19) Broken Rib – It is possible to break a rib without realizing it. Often times there is no significant injury that produces pain. Instead, the condition goes undiagnosed.

20) Hernia – This occurs when part of your intestine pushes through a weakened area in your abdominal wall. You may experience sharp pain and tenderness in this area. As the hernia grows, you may experience lower chest pain (on the ribcage).

21) Pleurisy – This condition occurs when the lining surrounding your lungs becomes inflamed. You may experience sharp chest pain when you inhale or exhale deeply.

22) Heart Attack – In this case, you have severe blockage of your coronary artery. This decreases the blood supply to your heart and leads to muscular death (infarction). As a result, you may experience crushing chest pain that is sometimes radiating in nature.

23) Panic Attack – Your chest pain may simply be the result of a panic attack. During this condition, your body undergoes severe nervous excitement. As a result, you experience shortness of breath and pain in the chest or other parts of the body.

24) Strenuous Exercise – Some people experience soreness in the chest after doing strenuous exercise.

25) Muscular Pain – Your chest pain could be caused by simple muscular pain (myalgia). This is common if you are new to an exercise program. Your muscles become sore and tender when asked to perform a lot of activity.

26) Sleeping Position – You may be used to sleeping on one side. Over time, your body adapts to this position and becomes stiff if you sleep any other way. This can cause pain in the chest wall, particularly when you wake up.

27) Gastric Reflux – This is a condition that occurs when the acid in your stomach backs up into your esophagus. It can cause a burning sensation in your chest, throat and even your mouth.

28) Pneumonia – This condition occurs when you suffer from a lung infection. You may experience a fever, chills and fatigue as your body fights off the infection. Pneumonia can lead to breaking down of the surrounding lung tissue.

This can cause sharp chest pain.

29) Heartburn – This occurs when the valve between your stomach and esophagus does not close properly. The stomach acid that is regurgitated into the esophagus can cause a burning sensation.

30) Spasms – The muscles in your upper chest may spasm as a result of another underlying condition. This can lead to pain similar to that of a heart attack.

31) Muscular Contraction – The chest pain may simply be caused by a muscular contraction in the chest wall or between the ribs.

The above reasons do not encompass every cause of chest pain. They do, however, cover the most common ones. If you are concerned about your condition, it is always best to consult a medical professional.

Only a doctor can give you a definitive diagnosis and provide treatment if necessary.

Tips for Coping with Chest Pain

If you suffer from chest pain, there are some things you can do to help minimize your symptoms:

Take an over the counter anti-inflammatory drug like Advil or Motrin.

Apply a heating pad to the painful area.

Consume one or two alcoholic drinks. This helps relax the chest muscles and relieves pain.

Practice relaxation techniques.

Smoke one or two cigarettes. The nicotine helps relax the chest muscles and relieves pain.

Get a massage.

Spend time in a sauna.

Apply direct pressure to the painful area.

If you are experiencing repeated chest pain or shortness of breath, don’t hesitate to seek immediate medical attention.

Other Types of Chest Pain

Although angina and myocardial infarction are the most common types of chest pain, there are several other types of chest pain that are not as serious and some may not even be related to the heart at all. Some of these other types of chest pain include:

Angular Stiffness: This type of chest pain is caused by a sharp pain on the left side of the chest wall. It is caused by a muscular contractions of the chest wall and can be treated with rest and over the counter pain relievers.

Costochondritis: This type of chest pain is caused by inflammation of the cartilage that connects your ribs to your sternum (breastbone). It is usually brought on by some sort of injury or sudden movement. Rest and over the counter pain relievers can help relieve this condition.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease: This is a condition in which the acid in your stomach refluxes, or backs up into your esophagus. It causes a burning sensation in the chest and throat and can lead to other complications like ulcers. Medication and changes in diet can help relieve this condition.

Pneumonia: If you have pneumonia, you may experience shortness of breath, fever and chills along with chest pain.

Sources & references used in this article:

Slipping rib syndrome: an overlooked cause of chest and abdominal pain. by N Lum-Hee, AJ Abdulla – International journal of clinical practice, 1997 –

First clinical judgment by primary care physicians distinguishes well between nonorganic and organic causes of abdominal or chest pain by B Martina, B Bucheli, M Stotz… – Journal of general …, 1997 – Wiley Online Library

Causes of chest pain and symptoms suggestive of acute cardiac ischemia in African-American patients presenting to the emergency department: a multicenter study. by C Maynard, JR Beshansky, JL Griffith… – Journal of the National …, 1997 –