What is chest tightness?

Chest tightness includes any type of pain or discomfort that occurs between your upper belly area and your lower neck. Chest tightness can occur in any age group or population and may also be described as chest pain, chest pressure, or a feeling of burning or fullness in the chest.

Chest tightness can be a serious, life-threatening symptom and is one typical symptom of a heart attack and other types of heart and cardiovascular diseases. Chest tightness can also be due to a wide variety of other diseases, disorders and conditions. For example, chest tightness can result from a relatively mild to moderate condition that is relatively easy to treat, such as drinking too much coffee, occasional indigestion, hyperventilation, or an anxiety attack.

Chest tightness can also be a symptom of a condition of the gastrointestinal tract, such as acid reflux and GERD. Serious respiratory conditions that can lead to a feeling of chest tightness or pain include pneumothorax, acute bronchitis, bronchiolitis, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pulmonary embolism, and pulmonary edema. In children, chest tightness is usually not caused by a heart attack and is more commonly caused by such conditions as asthma or costochondritis due to inflammation of the joints in the ribcage.

Depending on the cause, chest tightness can develop suddenly and disappear quickly, such as during hyperventilation or when breathing in very cold air. An intense feeling of tightness in the chest that occurs in a sudden, severe episode may be due to a heart attack or pulmonary embolism. Chronic and ongoing chest tightness may be due to COPD or lung cancer.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have unexplained chest tightness or a crushing feeling in your chest; if the pain is radiating to your shoulder blades, jaw, or left arm; or if you have shortness of breath, sweating, or chest tightness at rest. In addition, sudden chest tightness with shortness of breath after a long period of inactivity, such as prolonged bed rest, may be a sign of a pulmonary embolism and is a life-threatening emergency.


What other symptoms might occur with chest tightness?

Chest tightness often occurs in conjunction with other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. For example, if chest tightness is related to an infection, you may have a fever and body aches. Pain can travel from the neck, back, and belly area to your chest.

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What causes chest tightness?

Chest tightness is caused by a variety of mild to serious disorders, diseases and conditions. Chest tightness can result from infection, infarction, inflammation, trauma, malignancy, and other abnormal processes. While some cases of chest tightness are due to problems with the heart, chest tightness can also be due to respiratory diseases, problems with digestion, Read more about chest tightnesscauses

Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Aug 1, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Bones, Joints and Muscles

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