- Chronic chest pain lasts for weeks or months and can impair quality of life.
- Causes include gastrointestinal, musculoskeletal, pulmonary, and cardiovascular issues, anxiety, and stress.
- Diagnosis includes physical examination and imaging tests.
- Treatment options include lifestyle changes, medications, and surgery.
- Immediate medical attention is needed if chest pain is severe or accompanied by other symptoms.
Chest pain is a common symptom that many people experience at some point in their lives. However, if your chest pain is persistent and lasts for weeks or months, it could be a sign of a more severe problem. Various medical conditions, including heart and lung disorders, can cause chronic chest pain. Here’s what you need to know about it:
What is Chronic Chest Pain?
Chronic chest pain is any type of chest discomfort lasting more than a few weeks. It differs from acute chest pain, which is sudden and severe, often requiring urgent medical attention. Chronic chest pain is usually less severe but can significantly impair a person’s quality of life. The pain may be dull, aching, or sharp and can be felt anywhere in the chest area.
Causes For Chronic Chest Pain
Chronic chest pain can happen to anybody. However, certain conditions increase the risk of developing chronic chest pain. These include:
Heartburn, acid reflux, and other gastrointestinal problems can cause chronic chest pain, especially after eating. These conditions are caused by the acid from the stomach that flows back to the esophagus, causing a burning sensation in the chest. Chest pain associated with gastrointestinal problems may last for hours and can be aggravated by certain types of food.
Musculoskeletal pain is another common cause of chest pain. Various factors, including injuries, arthritis, and muscle strain, can cause it. Musculoskeletal chest pain is often sharp and localized and may feel worse when you move or breathe deeply.
Lung diseases such as pneumonia, bronchitis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can cause chronic chest pain. The pain is often accompanied by coughing, shortness of breath, and wheezing. Pulmonary chest pain can range from mild discomfort to severe pain that interferes with daily activities.
Heart problems can also cause chronic chest pain. Coronary artery disease, heart attack, and angina are some of the conditions that can cause chest pain. If heart problems cause pain, it may feel like a tightness or pressure in the chest that spreads to other body parts, like the arms or neck.
Anxiety and Stress
Sometimes, chest pain can be a symptom of emotional distress, such as anxiety or stress. When anxiety and stress cause chest pain, it may feel like a tightness or discomfort that lasts for hours or days. This chest pain may be relieved by relaxation techniques or anti-anxiety medication.
Moreover, taking up physical exercises that use breathing, like qigong, might be good. It’s a type of Chinese meditation that focuses on breathing and calming postures. It can help alleviate chest pain associated with stress and anxiety. If you don’t want to leave home, consider taking affordable online qigong classes. These classes will help you understand the importance of breathing and how it can affect your physical and emotional well-being.
A doctor should always evaluate chronic chest pain to determine the underlying cause. Your doctor will perform a physical examination, ask about your medical history, and may order imaging tests like X-rays and CT scans.
Treatment will depend on the underlying cause of the chest pain. Here are some common treatments for it:
Sometimes, lifestyle changes may help manage chronic chest pain. This includes quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet, and exercising regularly.
Depending on the underlying cause of your chest pain, your doctor might recommend over-the-counter analgesics or prescription medications to reduce inflammation and relieve discomfort. Antacids may also be prescribed for gastrointestinal problems that can cause chest pain.
If the chest pain is caused by an underlying medical condition such as coronary artery disease or lung disease, your doctor may recommend surgery to address the problem. Surgery can improve blood flow to the heart or lungs and relieve chronic chest pain.
When To See A Doctor?
Chest pain should never be ignored as it can be a sign of a serious medical condition. If your chest pain is severe, lasts for more than a few weeks, or is accompanied by other symptoms such as shortness of breath, fever, dizziness, or nausea, you should seek immediate medical attention. Your doctor will help determine the cause and recommend appropriate treatment options to reduce discomfort.
Chronic chest pain can often be managed with lifestyle changes and medications. But it’s important to talk to your doctor so they can diagnose the underlying cause and determine the best course of action. With timely diagnosis and proper treatment, you can manage your chronic chest pain and live an active life.