I Have Been Having Chest Pains For About 4 Years


Asked by Alisha Lillion

I Have Been Having Chest Pains For About 4 Years

I am only 18, but I have been having bad chest pains for about the past four years. The best way I've been able to describe them is either someone stabbing me, or squeezing tight pains. Sometimes I feel them right under my breast in my ribcage. I have had several chest x-rays, and I guess they were fine. I had another x-ray done recently and had an EKG, and it came back normal. I was also tested for asthma once or twice. My mom thinks maybe it could be something to do with stress, but when we mentioned it to our old nurse, she didn't really respond to that. The pains have never been consistent. Sometimes they're really bad, last for a minute or so, and happen once a day for a week. Other times they're not so bad, only last a few seconds, and happen once a week or month. And at some points I've gone a whole month w/o anything. But then they come back. Whenever I have had them, the only way I can get rid of him is by pressing on/holding my chest and taking deep breaths. I don't know if this sounds too crazy or unbelievable, but my doctors have not been able to find anything so far and haven't suggested any other tests besides x-rays and EKG.

I will say that they have happened MORESO when I am stressing about something, but not by much. They've happened while I'm watching tv, sitting at the computer, or sitting in class.

I just thought I would see if anyone else has had anything like this an knows what I can do. I don't want to overreact, and I've dealt with it for a while. But the intense pains hurt really bad and scare me sometimes.


Alisha Lillion,

Thanks for your question.

First of all, I want to reassure you that this is not your heart, and this is not something that is life threatening.

Now I want to remove my "Expert" hat because I don't know the exact cause of your pain, except to say that this is what is known as pleuritic pain, which comes from the lining of the lung. I'm removing my "Expert" hat because I've had these symptoms since I was a teenager. Your description of the pain, its occurrence, and how you relieve the pain are my exact experiences. All through my medical education and training, I've not found an explanation for this discomfort, except that it is pleuritic in nature and probably in origin. I've talked to many other physicians including lung specialists. One hypothesis is perhaps a small fold develops on the lung lining which causes the pain while breathing, and when a deep breath is taken, the fold is stretched back out. In many ways this is far fetched, but does explain the scenario pretty well. Over the years it has come and gone and seems to occur in batches. I do think that fatigue, lack of sleep, and maybe even stress, are contributing factors.

I'm now in my fifties and these episodes have become rare. Speaking as a regular person, it is something that you're going to experience from time to time. It never lasts long enough to take a pain reliever and, as you have described, you can alleviate the pain by taking one very deep breath while holding your chest. Be sure to get plenty of rest.

By the way, you are the only other person I've come in contact with that has the same symptoms as me. And again, let me assure you that this will not affect your life or your longevity in any way.

Now, let me put my hat back on. Should this discomfort change, become ongoing, or cannot be relieved by the usual methods, something new may be going on and you should see your physician. You will know the usual pattern over time, and any changes should be investigated.

Best wishes.

Martin Cane, M.D.