Chest cramps: causes and treatment

by Alivia Nyhan
Published: Last Updated on

Chest cramps or chest pains are a very common problem, it is one of the main causes of consultation in emergencies and one of the most important challenges for doctors when defining what is the problem that is causing this discomfort.

Chest pains can have multiple causes, some of them are really emergencies, that is, the person who suffers it must go promptly to a nearby health center and receive the appropriate treatment so that, in this way, they can be avoided. serious complications.

If you are interested in knowing what are the causes of chest cramps , when to see a doctor immediately and what treatments can be performed, be sure to read this FastlyHealarticle.

Why do they give chest cramps: causes

There are many causes of chest cramps. Sometimes the problem is in the heart, at other times, it is just something muscular or gastritis. The important thing is to know when these pains can be life-threatening in order to go immediately to the nearest health center. Let’s see below why they can give chest cramps:

Musculoskeletal pain

Pain originating in the muscles, bones or joints of the thorax can be caused by a blow, a virus (herpes zoster), compression of nerves in the cervical spine, among others. It is usually very annoying, worsens with deep breathing and improves with massage, does not put the person’s life at risk immediately.

Panic attacks

It is one of the most common causes of consultation in emergency services. In addition to a feeling of tightness in the chest, the person also feels that they cannot breathe, that their arms or legs go numb, and a lot of distress.

In the following article, you can learn more about the causes, symptoms, and treatment of panic attacks .

Lung problems

Different lung diseases can cause chest cramps. Pneumonia and tracheobronchitis are caused by infections, there may be fever, cough, and shortness of breath. The asthma attack can also cause pain associated with shortness of breath.

Other causes that should be ruled out are pneumothorax and pulmonary embolism , in both cases the pain appears suddenly along with shortness of breath and even fainting, and require immediate consultation to a health center.

Gastrointestinal disorders

They can cause pain in the upper abdomen and chest:

  • The stomach ulcers: the pain worse on an empty stomach.
  • The gastroesophageal reflux disease: pain in the center of the chest, above all, being the person lying and sitting improves and antacids.
  • The gallstones: the pain often occur after eating fat and has moments of calm among others a lot of pain.
  • The spasms in the esophagus is a pain very similar to that of heart attack, feels as if something heavy compress the chest.

Heart diseases

When the origin of the pain is properly in the heart ( myocardial infarctions and angina pectoris ), it is really an emergency, since it can put the patient’s life at risk. This pain:

  • Typically, it is located on the left side of the chest or across the chest as if something was squeezing strongly.
  • It may spread to the left neck, jaw, arm, and sometimes to the abdomen.
  • It can be accompanied by shortness of breath, dizziness, cold sweats, nausea, or vomiting.
  • These symptoms can appear after having done physical exercise, going through a stressful or exciting situation, when there are low ambient temperatures, or simply appear that way.
  • It usually happens in people with diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smokers, who do not perform physical activity, with a history of heart problems of their own or their family (parents, grandparents, siblings), or in those who use drugs (such as cocaine).

Problems in structures near the heart

It can also be serious if the chest pain is caused by a ruptured aorta (this is rare, but the pain is very severe and the person often loses consciousness quickly). When the envelopes of the heart are inflamed, it is called pericarditis , this is a pain that usually cuts off breathing, increases when lying down and decreases when sitting forward.


Women can also get cramps in the chest during breastfeeding. The pain is caused by the accumulation of milk, usually in one breast. Inflammation with redness and warmth is observed in the painful area and, in addition, fever may occur.

What to do if I feel chest cramps

Chest cramps often worry the sufferer and their family members. As seen in the previous section, the causes are very varied and while some may be very simple, others are life-threatening. Therefore, it is important to know what to do at that time:

  • Take a deep breath and calm down. Nerves can play tricks and make you feel worse than you are.
  • If the pain started suddenly and is getting worse, don’t waste time trying to figure out what is causing your chest pain, call 911 or ask someone to drive you to the nearest health center (driving yourself is the last resort, as which can be dangerous for you and others).
  • Remember if you had similar pain. Try to identify when the pain appeared, if it is related to some activity, if something improves or worsens it. It can help guide the doctor who receives you.

It is important to know that sometimes it is difficult for even a professional to know what is the cause of chest pain. In the consultation, a good questioning, physical examination and some studies (electrocardiogram, chest x-ray, blood tests, among others) will be done in order to give the most appropriate treatment as quickly as possible.

Treatment of chest cramps

Depending on the cause of chest cramps, one treatment or another will be determined:

  • Musculoskeletal pain: depending on the cause, analgesics, massages and rest will be indicated.
  • Panic attacks: the important thing is containment not only at that time but in the long term, in the consultation some anxiolytic may be indicated.
  • Lung problems: as seen, life may be at risk and, depending on the case, the person will remain hospitalized, oxygen will be provided, medications as required (antibiotics, drugs to open the airway, among others) and eventually surgery if a collapsed lung has occurred.
  • Gastrointestinal problems: rest, diet and medication according to the cause that the doctor recognizes. It is important not to self-medicate, as it can make the problem worse.
  • Pericarditis: being a virus that usually causes inflammation, the patient tends to be cared for until he recovers, it can be helped with corticosteroids and anti-inflammatories.
  • Mastitis: cold compresses are indicated in the painful area, chest emptying and antibiotics.
  • Myocardial infarction and angina pectoris: the patient must be hospitalized and the treatment will aim to improve the delivery of blood and, therefore, oxygen to the heart. This can be done with medication, oxygen, and through procedures to unclog the arteries.
  • Rupture of the aorta: also requires immediate attention. Usually, surgery and medication are required.

Remember, if you suffer from chest cramps, don’t waste time trying to figure out what the cause is, as wasting time can sometimes make the situation worse. Go to your trusted doctor, he will know how to advise and help you.

This article is merely informative, at FastlyHeal .com we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to Chest cramps: causes and treatment , we recommend that you enter our Bones, Joints and Muscles category .

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