Pain in the middle of the chest: what it could be (and what to do)

Chest pain

Pain in the middle of the chest is often suspected of having a heart attack, however, this is one of the rarest causes and when it occurs it is accompanied by symptoms other than just pain, such as difficulty breathing, tingling in one of the arms, paleness or nausea, for example. See all the signs that may indicate a heart attack.

Typically, pain in the middle of the chest is a sign of other less serious problems, such as gastritis, costochondritis or even excess gas and, therefore, does not need to be a reason for anxiety or concern, especially if there are no risk factors such as a history of diseases. heart disease, high blood pressure, being overweight or high cholesterol.

Even so, if there is a suspicion of a heart attack, it is very important to go quickly to the hospital to carry out tests, such as an electrocardiogram and the measurement of tumor necrosis markers in the blood, popularly known as the measurement of cardiac enzymes, to assess whether it could be a heart attack and start appropriate treatment.

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What could be your chest pain

To identify the possible cause of your chest pain, please answer the following questions:

Main causes of pain in the middle of the chest

The main causes of pain in the middle of the chest are:

1. Excess gas

Excess intestinal gas is one of the most common causes of chest pain and can often be confused with a heart attack, causing anxiety, which ends up worsening the pain and contributing to the idea that it could actually be a heart attack.

Pain caused by excess gas is more common in people with constipation, but it can happen in many other cases, such as when you are taking a probiotic, for example, or when you have spent a long time trying to control the urge to defecate.

Other symptoms: in addition to the pain, it is common for people to have a swollen belly and even feel some pain or twinges in the abdomen.

What to do: you can do an abdominal massage to try to release the gases that are accumulating in the intestine and drink teas such as fennel or cardamom, which help absorb the gases. Some medications, such as simethicone, can also help, but should only be used with a doctor’s advice. See how to prepare these teas and others for intestinal gas.

2. Costocondrite

Sometimes pain in the middle of the chest occurs due to inflammation of the cartilage that connects the ribs to the bone in the middle of the chest called the sternum. Therefore, it is common for the pain to become stronger when you squeeze your chest or when you are lying on your stomach, for example.

Other symptoms: feeling of sore chest and pain that worsens when applying pressure to the area or when breathing and coughing.

What to do: applying a hot compress to the breast bone can help relieve pain, however, treatment needs to be done with anti-inflammatory medicines prescribed by a general practitioner or orthopedist. See how costochondritis is treated.

3. Heart attack

Although it is the first suspicion when severe chest pain appears, a heart attack is generally quite rare and usually happens in people who have some risk factor such as being overweight, high cholesterol or cardiovascular diseases, such as hypertension, for example.

Other symptoms: normally the heart attack is accompanied by cold sweat, nausea or vomiting, paleness, a feeling of shortness of breath and heaviness in the left arm. The pain also tends to get worse, starting as a slight feeling of tightness in the chest.

What to do: if a heart attack is suspected, go to the hospital immediately or call for medical help by calling 192.

4. Gastritis

Inflammation of the stomach, known as gastritis, is also one of the main causes of pain in the middle of the chest, as it is common for, in these cases, the pain to appear in the region of the pit of the stomach, which is located very close to the center of the chest. , and may even radiate to the back.

Gastritis is more common in people who have a poor diet, but it can also occur in those who have a very stressed lifestyle, as excessive worry changes the pH of the stomach, which can contribute to inflammation.

Other symptoms: Gastritis is usually accompanied by a feeling of a full stomach, lack of appetite, heartburn and frequent belching, for example.

What to do: one way to reduce stomach inflammation and alleviate symptoms is to drink a glass of water with a few drops of lemon or drink potato juice, as they help to increase the pH of the stomach, reducing inflammation. However, as gastritis may be caused by an infection with H. pylori It is best to consult a gastroenterologist, especially if the pain persists for more than 3 or 4 days. Find out more about gastritis and how to treat it.

5. Gastric ulcer

In addition to gastritis, another very common stomach problem that can cause pain in the middle of the chest is a gastric ulcer. Generally, an ulcer is a consequence of gastritis that was not treated correctly and caused a wound to appear in the stomach lining.

Other symptoms: the ulcer causes a sharp pain that can radiate to the back and chest, in addition to other signs such as frequent nausea, a feeling of heaviness in the stomach and vomiting, which may even contain small amounts of blood.

What to do: It is important to consult a gastroenterologist whenever you suspect an ulcer, as it is usually necessary to start taking medications that reduce stomach acidity and create a protective barrier, such as Pantoprazole or Lansoprazole, for example. However, you should also follow a light diet with easy-to-digest foods to avoid worsening the ulcer. See what the diet should be like in cases of ulcers.

6. Liver problems

Along with stomach problems, changes in the liver can also cause pain in the middle of the chest. Although it is more common for pain caused by the liver to appear on the right side, just below the ribs, it is also possible for this pain to radiate into the chest. Check out the signs that may indicate a liver problem.

Other symptoms: normally associated with pain, constant nausea, loss of appetite, headache, dark urine and yellowish skin and eyes may appear.

What to do: if a liver problem is suspected, it is advisable to consult a hepatologist to identify the correct diagnosis and initiate the most appropriate treatment.

When to go to the doctor

You should go to the doctor whenever you suspect a heart attack or a heart problem. Although a heart attack is a rare cause in emergencies, when there is suspicion or doubt, it is always best to seek an emergency service for clarification, as it is a very serious illness.

However, if this is not the case, it is recommended to go to the doctor if the pain lasts more than 2 days or if it is accompanied by:

  • Vomiting with blood;
  • Tingling in the arm;
  • Yellow skin and eyes;
  • Difficulty breathing.

Furthermore, if you have risk factors such as being overweight, high cholesterol or high blood pressure, you should also consult a doctor.