Everyone has probably experienced that their chest feels tight at one point in their lives. Whether after strenuous activity, a stressful situation, or even an episode of intense emotion, tightness in the chest can signify many different things. Chest tightness is often described as a feeling of pressure or heaviness on the chest.
Chest tightness can occur at any age and can result from various physical and mental stress, or an underlying medical condition. It can also be a sign of something more serious, such as a heart attack, so it is vital never to ignore any chest tightness or discomfort between the upper abdomen and the neck.
In this article, we look at some of the common causes of chest tightness, when you should see a doctor, and how it can be treated.
Why My Chest Feels Tight?
There are many different causes associated with tightness in the chest:
Anxiety is a very common cause of chest tightness. Other symptoms include dizziness, nervousness, and difficulty in breathing. In addition, anxiety can also increase your heart rate and can cause muscle tightness or tension across the body. Sometimes, the sensation can be so severe that it can be mistaken for a heart attack.
Angina is a condition that happens when your heart muscle doesn’t get enough oxygen-rich blood. It can cause pain, pressure, heaviness, squeezing, and tightness in your chest.
Asthma is a condition in which your airways narrow and swell and may produce extra mucus. Chest tightness is a common symptom in people with asthma and may be accompanied by shortness of breath, wheezing, and coughing. Chest tightness may be a sign that an asthma attack is coming on or that your asthma is worsening.
- Acid Reflux
Also known as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), Acid Reflux occurs when stomach acid travels up from the stomach into the oesophagus. It is also sometimes called ‘heartburn’. Things that may trigger acid reflux include obesity, smoking, pregnancy, and spicy or fatty foods. In most cases, acid reflux can be treated with diet, lifestyle changes, and over-the-counter medications. However, some people may require stronger drugs or even surgery.
- Muscle Strain
If you’ve pulled a muscle, particularly in your chest or abdomen, you may experience chest tightness and pain when you’re active. In some cases, the tension may be severe enough to cause pain when you breathe. Simple chest muscle strains and pulls usually settle within 1-3 weeks. Overall, they require little treatment other than occasional painkillers as required.
Pneumonia is an infection and inflammation of air sacs in one or both lungs. The chest tightness and pain of pneumonia may be sharp and get worse with deep breaths or coughing. You should seek out your doctor as soon as you suspect you have pneumonia.
- Heart Attack
Myocardial Infarction, also known as a heart attack, is a life-threatening emergency that occurs when the flow of blood to the heart is severely reduced or blocked. One of the first symptoms a person may experience when having a heart attack is tightness in the chest. Chest tightness in a heart attack is usually a more severe, crushing pain usually in the centre or left side of the chest, and is not relieved by rest. The longer the heart attack is untreated, the greater the damage to the heart muscle. It’s important that a heart attack is treated immediately or else it can have lethal outcomes.
How to Treat Chest Tightness?
You will be required to undergo tests to determine the underlying cause of the tightening of your chest. Your doctor will then recommend the best course of treatment for your condition based on your test results and situation. Treatment may require a range of options, from simple lifestyle changes to medication or detailed treatment plans. For more serious medical conditions long-term monitoring and treatment and even surgery may be needed.
When Should I See a Doctor?
It’s important to see a doctor for any kind of tightness in the chest or feeling of chest heaviness. Anyone experiencing sudden, unexplained, severe chest pain should seek emergency medical services immediately.
Manage Your Risks For Heart Diseases And Other Chronic Conditions With Regular Health Screening
Early detection results in better management and treatment, which decreases the risk of complications and increases the chances of better health outcomes. Instead of waiting until symptoms show, consider getting regular health screenings to proactively manage your health and guard against the risk of cancer, heart diseases, and other chronic health conditions. Health screenings play an essential role in maintaining overall wellness, peace of mind, and health in the long run. There is no better time than now to take concrete steps and preventive health measures. Health365 has partnered with healthcare providers for health screening in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok. Explore the health screening options here.
This article is informative only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.