Have you been experiencing a tingling feeling in your chest area, or, perhaps, it seems like a needle is pricking your heart? Sometimes, the feeling just simply goes away in a few minutes but, at times, it lingers a while. Have you been worried and wondering what causes it and how it may be alleviated?
Chest pain is a pain or a burning sensation felt in the chest area. Sometimes it is accompanied by numbness in the surrounding body parts, mostly the left arm, depending on the severity of the pain and the factors that caused it. Sometimes, the person suffering it experiences shortness of breath and sweating. The intensity of the pain varies. At times, it is so intense that it disrupts the person’s activity or can make him unable to focus on the task being done. However, most chest pains simply go away after a few minutes. Owing to this, people oftentimes ignore the pain. Aptly, chest pain should not be ignored, as it could be an indication of an underlying medical condition that may be life-threatening when left untreated. The pain has been linked to heart disease and possible cardiac arrest, although not all chest pains are caused by heart problems.
What are Causes of Chest Pain That Comes and Goes?
Although it’s commonly associated with heart disease, there are other several factors that result to it. Oftentimes, it is difficult to ascertain what causes the pain.
Common major heart-related problems that cause chest pain are the following:
- coronary artery disease (CAD)
- heart attack
- heart valve disease
- cardiomyopathy or heart enlargement
Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the hardening, narrowing, or the blockage of the coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart. This may be caused by the buildup of cholesterol within the arteries.
Heart attack, on the other hand, happens when the heart muscle is deprived of oxygen. This results in damage to the heart muscles and, consequently, to the whole cardiovascular system when left untreated.
Heart valve diseases are those that affect or damage the valves of the heart. Some are congenital in nature, which means the disease is already present at birth. However, these may also be acquired. An example of an acquired heart valve disease is rheumatic heart disease which is caused by rheumatic fever. This disease damages the 4 valves of the heart which control the blood flow into and out of the heart.
Cardiomyopathy or heart enlargement happens due to either thinning or thickening of the heart ventricles. This is often caused by high blood pressure or blockage of the arteries of the heart. When left untreated, the heart muscles become weak and damaged which results in enlargement of the heart.
Common non-heart-related causes of chest pain are the following:
- acid reflux
- muscle spasm
- pulmonary disorders (pneumonia, tuberculosis, asthma, chronic cough)
Acid reflux happens when the stomach acid flows back to the food pipe, the esophagus. The acid from the stomach hurts the lining of the esophagus, resulting in heartburn which is felt as chest pain.
Muscle spasm is an involuntary contraction of the muscles. When this happens in the chest area, it is also felt like pain on the chest. Oftentimes, it is abrupt and goes away on its own.
Pulmonary disorders such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, and asthma also cause the pain on your chest. Pneumonia and tuberculosis are lung diseases which are caused by an infection of the lungs caused by certain bacteria. Frequent coughing associated with such diseases causes the chest muscles to get strained resulting in pain that may vary from sharp to dull, depending on the frequency of the cough. Asthma is a chronic disease caused by an inflammation of the air passages. Sometimes it is inherited from the parents or ancestors who also suffer from asthma; sometimes it is acquired. Some people develop asthma due to the presence of contaminants or allergens in the environment they are frequently in.
Anxiety or panic attack causes the heart to beat faster. The rapid beating or contraction of the heart causes the blood vessels to contract, thereby causing chest pain. The moment the anxiety goes away, the pain also gradually disappears.
What are Symptoms?
People experiencing chest pains become worried of what could have triggered the pain and how long the pain would last, when to see a doctor and when not to. Following are some of the symptoms of chest pain that comes and goes:
- prickling pain in the chest area
- tightness in the chest
- rapid heartbeat
- shortness of breath
How to Treat & Home Remedies?
Chest pains, especially those that frequently come and go, should be taken seriously. However, no one knows where and when the pain attacks. Most of the times, we are caught off guard and experience the pain in the middle of our busy life at work or at home. As such, one should learn the basic home remedies that would be of great help to the person who experiences it.
- relax and take a deep breath (when doing tedious work)
- drink a cup of (lukewarm) water
- take in an antacid – to lessen acid reflux
- stay in a shaded or well-ventilated area to breathe in sufficient amount of oxygen
- observe proper posture (when sitting or standing)
- avoid caffeinated products – as this may cause palpitation
- drink peppermint or chamomile tea – to relieve gas pain and help the muscles relax
Chest pains that are caused by diseases of the heart may require further medical treatment, some of which are expensive. Laboratory tests and other medical procedures are necessary to determine the actual cause of the chest pain. An electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) is commonly required to determine the patient’s heart condition. ECG is a test that shows the electrical activities of the heart. The waves shown by the ECG indicate whether there are irregularities in the pumping of the heart and therefore suggest possible occurrence of heart failure. Treatment of blocked coronary arteries involves medications that dilate the arteries (vasodilators), so that blood can freely flow to the heart. This is feasible if the blockage is not so severe. There are different vasodilators available in pharmacies. However, do not take them without your doctor’s prescription as it might cause you more harm than good. In worst cases, where the blockage of the arteries is so severe that vasodilators are no longer effective, coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) is sometimes recommended. It is a complex open heart surgery wherein the blocked arteries are being bypassed, and the blood flow is re-routed beyond the blocked arteries. The procedure is very expensive and may result in few undesirable effects.
Similarly, chest pains that are caused by pulmonary and digestive disorders require serious medical attention. X-ray or abdominal ultrasound is oftentimes recommended. It is an imaging test which allows the physicians to view the interior condition of the lungs, or the body in general. From the result of the X-ray or ultrasound, the physicians will have a better clue as to what causes the chest pain and recommend appropriate and effective treatment. Importantly, one should see a physician right away to receive proper treatment, as delaying it could aggravate one’s medical condition.
Chest pains that come and go are so undesirable. No one dreams of experiencing one nor wishes that a family member or a friend suffers from it. However, a person’s lifestyle and diet determines one’s health. People who set their lifestyle in such a way that does not harm their body are most likely spared from several ailments that cause discomfort and pain. It is important that a person should have enough sleep or rest, eat the proper kinds of food, and avoid physical, mental, and emotional stresses which are great contributors of different diseases. As it has been said, “prevention is better than cure”. This still remains true and could save us from unnecessary burdens that could weigh us down.