Scouring the web for information that might help you self-diagnose can quickly get addicting, and scary. Unfortunately, when you had an odd sensation that you can't quite pinpoint, and it doesn't quite measure up to typical symptoms, you are left with little choice. I imagine I am not the only one who has this persistent dull aching in my chest so I thought I would share my experience and findings in the hope that I can help others.
My heart region started aching during periods of acute stress about 4 months ago. It is never intense; it's just a dull, persistent light ache. I am a runner, and there are times when running vigorously increases the pain ever so slightly. But it's never anything approaching acute. I have no trouble breathing, nor does the pain increase with breathing. It just persists as a dull discomfort. It has always been fairly localized on the left side in the area of my heart and it does not radiate to arms, shoulders.
As first I thought my chest pain could be due to anxiety. I'm not necessarily prone to anxiety, but I have had an exceptionally stressful year at work - combined with too little sleep. Some nights I have had as few as 3-4 hours of sleep, but for the most part I get 6-7 hours of sleep. However, my father had a bypass operation this past year due to calcification from persistent flow turbulence due a defective valve. So I suppose there is some genetic predisposition to heart disease. However, I'm much younger and I'm not experiencing anything acute. It's just that the dull ache doesn't ever fully dissipate. So, the question remains - is it related to heart disease, or anxiety?
Heart disease vs. anxiety
Your first thought is bound to drift to a heart disease or blockage problem. Before you jump to any conclusions, according to experts you should consider the following:
- Is it a sharp pain that gets worse when taking a breath?
- Is the sharp pain short in duration - just a few seconds?
- Does the pan worsen when you press on your chest?
Sharp chest pains may be related to heart disease or blockage, but it's important to note that it is not typically related to such serious conditions. Pain that is sharp, almost like a needle is stabbing you, is not often due to heart blockage. Particularly, if the pain worsen with movement or breathing, this rarely indicates coronary heart disease. Pain that increases with movement could be attributed to an issue with your ribs, muscles, cartilage or lungs. Certainly still something to approach your doctor about - but not something to fret is wrong with your heart.
If your pain resembles any of the following, experts urge you to immediately call 911, as it could be the onset of a heart attack:
- Chest discomfort: Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain
- Discomfort in other areas of the upper body: Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in on or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
- Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
- Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
In the case of anxiety, you will likely have the accompanying symptoms:
- Adrenaline levels rise
- Breathing becomes faster
- Heart beats faster
These symptoms could be a result of a panic attack, not a heart attack, but can also bring about chest pain. Try these suggestions from experts to eliminate your panic attack and see if the chest pain also subsides:
- Eat a healthy diet
- Exercise daily
- Learn relaxation techniques such as meditation or deep breathinng
Whatever the culprit for your chest pain may be, it's important to check with your doctor to rule out any major complications or conditions. Good luck!
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Published On: June 14, 2008