Chest pressure or pain can indicate several health problems, some serious or even life-threatening, and others more benign. Learn more about chest pain that gets better with exercise.
If you experience pressure in your chest, you may think you have a heart attack or some heart problem. However, if chest pain or pressure is relieved by moving around or exercising, you probably do not have a cardiovascular-related episode. Nevertheless, mention any concerns you may have with your doctor.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, structures in the chest cavity and upper torso – such as the heart, lungs, esophagus, and ribs – can cause feelings of pressure or pain for various reasons. Muscles, nerves, and tendons can also be sources of pressure. Because chest tightness and pain are somewhat vague symptoms, the possible causes are usually heart-related and non-heart-related, depending on other symptoms that accompany the stress.
Feelings of pressure, tightness, or fullness in the chest may indicate that you have a heart attack or other heart-related problems. Heart-related chest pain is often led by shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness, sweating, and crushing pain from the chest to the arms, back, shoulders, neck, and jaw. This type of pressure or pain usually comes and goes in varying intensity and lasts for more than a few minutes. If the chest pressure disappears or decreases when you change position or move around, this probably indicates a non-heart problem. Shingles and upper respiratory tract infections can cause stress or pain in the chest along with a burning sensation, while gastrointestinal issues such as gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, cause distress or pressure just below the sternum or sternum, notes the University of Michigan Health System.
Non-cardiac pressure or pain that disappears when you move around can have a variety of causes, and only your doctor can give you a proper diagnosis. Your chest pressure may be due to respiratory problems such as pneumonia, asthma, pulmonary embolism, pleurisy, or a collapsed lung, says the University of Maryland Medical Center. In rare cases, lung cancer can cause pressure or pain in the chest. Gastrointestinal problems often cause feelings of tension in the chest, mainly due to heartburn or GERD, esophageal spasms, swallowing disorders such as achalasia, hiatal hernia, and problems with the pancreas or gallbladder such as pancreatitis and gallstones. Fibromyalgia and other chronic pain disorders can cause sore muscles in the chest area, while costochondritis can cause cartilage inflammation between the ribs and the sternum. Used or damaged ribs can also cause chest pain, but the pain usually worsens as you move around.
When to call your GP
Do not self-diagnose the chest pressure or the pain symptoms, as the pressure in the chest may indicate a severe and dangerous condition. Although moving chest pressure relief usually does not imply a heart-related problem, you should seek medical attention if you have any of the other symptoms of a heart attack.