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Why Do I Have Chest and Back Pain?

chest pain

While you might experience chest pain or pain in the back for several reasons, in some cases, you might experience both at the same time.

There are several causes for this type of pain, and some of them are rather typical.

In some cases, chest and back pain can be a sign of a more severe condition such as a heart attack. If you think you're having a heart attack or have unexplained or new chest pain, always seek emergency care.

14 Causes of Chest and Back Pain

The prospective causes of combined chest and pain in the back are diverse and can be caused by the heart, lungs, or other body locations.

1. Heart attack

    When the flow of blood to your heart tissue becomes blocked, a heart attack takes place. This can be due to a blood clot or buildup of plaque on the walls of the arteries.

    You may feel discomfort in your chest because the tissue isn't getting blood. Often this pain can infect other parts of your body, such as your back, shoulders, and neck.

    A heart attack is a medical emergency. Seek immediate assistance if you believe you're experiencing one.

    2. Angina

      Angina is discomfort that happens when the tissue of your heart isn't getting sufficient blood. This is typically triggered by decreased blood circulation due to plaque accumulation on the coronary arteries' walls.

      Angina typically takes place when you're exerting yourself. It can also happen when you're at rest.

      Like heart attack pain, angina's discomfort can spread to the back, neck, and jaw. Angina can be an indication that you're at an increased risk for heart attack.

      3. Peptic Ulcer

      A peptic ulcer occurs when there's a break in the lining of your digestive system. These ulcers can happen in the stomach, small intestine, and esophagus.

      The majority of cases of peptic ulcers are triggered by infection with germs called Helicobacter pylori. They can also take place in people that take aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

      Individuals with gastric ulcers may feel heartburn in their chest location and abdominal discomfort. In many cases, the discomfort might spread to the back.

      4. Aortic Aneurysm

        The aorta is the largest artery in your body. When the wall of the aorta damages due to injury or damage, an aortic aneurysm occurs. A bulge might happen in this weakened location.

        If an aortic aneurysm breaks open, it can trigger deadly bleeding.

        The discomfort from an aortic aneurysm can depend upon its area. Pain can happen in the chest, back, shoulder, and other areas like the abdominal area.

        5. Pleurisy

          The pleura is a two-layered membrane. One layer wraps around your lungs, while the other lines your chest cavity. When the pleura ends up being swollen, it's called pleurisy.

          Pleurisy has a range of causes, consisting of:

          • infections
          • autoimmune conditions
          • cancers

          When the two swollen membranes rub against each other, the pain from pleurisy occurs. It can happen in the chest; however, it also infected the back and shoulders.

          6. Pericarditis

            The pericardium is a fluid-filled sac that surrounds your heart, assisting in safeguarding it. When the pericardium becomes irritated, it's called pericarditis.

            Pericarditis can be triggered by numerous things consisting of infections and autoimmune conditions. It can likewise occur after a cardiac arrest or after heart surgical treatment.

            The pain from pericarditis is caused by your heart tissue rubbing versus the irritated pericardium. It can spread to your back, left shoulder, or neck.

            7. Pulmonary Embolism

              When an artery in one of your lungs is blocked, a pulmonary embolism takes place. It's usually triggered when a blood clot in other places in your body breaks out, takes a trip through the bloodstream, and becomes lodged in a lung artery.

              Chest pain is a typical symptom of a lung embolism, although pain may also infect the shoulders, neck, and back.

              8. Heartburn

                Heartburn is a burning experience that happens in your chest, just behind your breastbone. It's caused when stomach acid supports your esophagus.

                Usually, there's a sphincter between your stomach and esophagus that avoids this from happening, but sometimes it's compromised or does not function correctly.

                Heartburn that occurs regularly and impacts your day-to-day activities is called gastroesophageal reflux illness (GERD).

                The pain from heartburn is often in your chest, but you might sometimes feel it in your back.

                9. Gallstones

                  Your gallbladder is a little organ that keeps a digestive fluid called bile. Sometimes this digestive fluid solidifies into stones, which can trigger pain.

                  The discomfort from gallstones might be located on the right side of your upper body but can infect your back and shoulders as well.

                  10. Shingles

                    Shingles are brought on by the reactivation of the virus that causes chickenpox (varicella-zoster). It causes a rash comprised of fluid-filled blisters to appear and often affects simply one side of the body.

                    Usually, shingles forms on a band of skin called a dermatome. Sometimes it can cover your upper body, for instance, from your back to chest. Discomfort from shingles can vary by case, varying from mild to serious.

                    11. Pancreatitis

                      Your pancreas is an organ that produces enzymes utilized in food digestion, as well as hormones that manage your body's blood sugar level levels. When the pancreas becomes swollen, the condition is called pancreatitis.

                      Pancreatitis occurs when gastrointestinal enzymes trigger in your pancreas, causing inflammation and inflammation. This can happen for a range of reasons consisting of infection, injury, and cancer.

                      The discomfort from pancreatitis occurs in the abdominal area but can also radiate to the chest and back.

                      12. Muscle injury or overuse

                        In some cases, chest and pain in the back may be due to injury or overuse of muscles. Injury can happen due to things like mishaps or falls.

                        Overuse can likewise cause muscle discomfort. Repeated motions that are used in daily activities, work, or sports can also contribute to this. An example of a recurring activity that may cause muscle pain in the chest and back is rowing.

                        Typically, discomfort from a muscle injury or overuse might be even worse when moving the affected location.

                        13. Cancer

                          Some cancers can trigger chest and neck, and back pain to occur together. 2 examples are lung cancer and breast cancer.

                          Although discomfort in the chest location is a typical symptom of these cancers, back pain can occur as well.

                          Around 25 percent of people with lung cancer report pain in the back eventually. This can be due to a growth pushing on the spinal column or surrounding nerves.

                          When breast cancer has spread to other parts of the body (metastasized), it can cause pain in the back.

                          14. Herniated disc

                            Each disc has a hard external shell and a gel-like interior. This is called a herniated disc.

                            The herniated disc can often continue or pinch neighboring nerves, causing discomfort to take place.

                            A pinched nerve in the neck or upper back can trigger pain in the back that radiates to the chest and can simulate heart disease discomfort.



                            As we've seen above, there are many different chest and neck causes and back pain. So how can you identify them from one another?

                            Sometimes the location or the timing of the pain can provide you a clue to the cause.

                            Why is the pain on the left side?

                            Your heart is oriented more towards the left side of your chest. For that reason, discomfort on the left side of your chest could be caused by

                            • cardiovascular disease
                            • angina
                            • pericarditis
                            • aortic aneurysm

                            Why is the discomfort on the right side?

                            Your gallbladder is located on the best side of your body. Pain in this area, which can spread to your right shoulder or in between your shoulder blades, may suggest gallstones.

                            Why do I feel pain after eating?

                            Often you may observe that your chest or neck and back pain occurs quickly after eating. Conditions like heartburn and pancreatitis may trigger this.

                            It should also be kept in mind that pain from peptic ulcers might happen when you have an empty stomach. In many cases, eating may help to relieve pain.

                            Why do I feel discomfort when I cough?

                            Some reasons for chest and back pain become worse while coughing. This can occur with:

                            • pericarditis
                            • a pulmonary embolism
                            • pleurisy
                            • lung cancer

                            Why does it harm when swallowing?

                            Sometimes, you may feel pain when you swallow.

                            Causes of chest and pain in the back can cause pain while swallowing consists of pericarditis and aortic aneurysm if the aneurysm is continuing the esophagus.

                            Why do I feel discomfort while lying down?

                            Have you observed that your discomfort worsens when you lie down? When you're lying down, conditions like pericarditis and heartburn might make chest and back discomfort worse.

                            Why does it hurt when I breathe?

                            Typically, conditions impacting the heart and lungs' location may trigger pain when you inhale, particularly if you're taking deep breaths. Some examples include:

                            • pericarditis
                            • lung embolism
                            • pleurisy
                            • lung cancer



                            chest pain treatment


                            What type of treatment you’ll receive for your chest and back pain will depend on what’s causing the pain. Below, we’ll explore some of the treatments that you may receive.


                            Medications or drugs

                            In some cases, medications may be prescribed to help treat your condition. Some examples include:

                            • over-the-counter (OTC) medications to help with pain and inflammation, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
                            • immediate treatments for a heart attack, such as aspirin, nitroglycerin, and clot-busting medications
                            • treatments to help lower blood pressure or prevent chest pain and blood clots like ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers, and blood thinners
                            • blood thinners and clot-busting medications to break up blood clots in people with a pulmonary embolism
                            • antibiotic or antifungal medications to treat conditions that may be caused by an infection, such as pericarditis and pleurisy
                            • medications to relieve heartburn including antacids, H2 blockers, and proton pump inhibitors
                            • acid-suppressing medications, often in combination with antibiotics, to treat peptic ulcers
                            • medications to dissolve gallstones
                            • antiviral medications to treat a shingles outbreak
                            • chemotherapy to kill cancer cells


                            Nonsurgical procedures

                            Nonsurgical procedures can also help to treat conditions causing chest and back pain. Some examples are:

                            • percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) to treat heart attack or uncontrolled angina
                            • procedures to drain fluid that may have accumulated in an inflamed area, such as in pericarditis or pleurisy



                            Sometimes, surgery may be required to treat a condition causing chest or back pain.

                            These can include:

                            • heart bypass surgery to treat a heart attack or uncontrolled angina
                            • surgical repair of aortic aneurysms, which can be done either by open-chest surgery or by endovascular surgery
                            • removal of the gallbladder if you have recurring gallstones
                            • surgery to treat a herniated disc, which may include disc removal
                            • removal of cancerous tissue from your body


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                            Other therapies

                            In some cases, physical therapy may be required to treat the cause of your chest or back pain. Examples of when this may be necessary are when you’re recovering from a herniated disc or from a muscle injury.

                            Additionally, surgery and chemotherapy aren’t the only treatments available for cancer. Radiation therapy, targeted therapy, or immunotherapy may be recommended.


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                            Lifestyle changes

                            Lifestyle changes can be beneficial in treating or preventing some causes of chest and back pain. Examples of lifestyle changes that may be a part of your treatment plan include:


                            When to see a doctor

                            You should always seek immediate medical attention if you’re experiencing the signs of a heart attack.

                            Signs to look out for include:

                            • chest pain or pressure
                            • pain that spreads to your arms, shoulders, neck, or jaw
                            • shortness of breath
                            • nausea
                            • fatigue
                            • feeling dizzy or lightheaded
                            • breaking out into a cold sweat

                            It’s also important to remember that sometimes a heart attack can have mild or even no symptoms. When in doubt, seek care.

                            You should make an appointment with your doctor to discuss your symptoms if you have chest and back pain that:

                            • doesn’t go away or gets worse, despite using OTC medications
                            • is persistent or recurring
                            • becomes disruptive to your day-to-day activities


                            The bottom line

                            There are many possible causes of chest and back pain that occur together. They can be related to the heart, lungs, or other parts of the body.

                            Some causes of this type of pain aren’t serious. However, you should always take chest pain seriously. In some cases, chest pain could be a sign of a life-threatening condition like a heart attack.

                            If you experience chest pain that comes on suddenly or believe that you’re having a heart attack, seek emergency medical attention.

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