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Tightness in the chest - man holding on to his chest

Tightness in the chest: Why does my chest feel like this?

Are you experiencing tightness in the chest? You may have landed on this page trying to seek comfort from us telling you that it’s probably nothing to worry about. However, chest pains and tightness in the chest are very serious and shouldn’t be disregarded so quickly. 

Dr. Woody, MD, FACEP, chief medical officer of Intuitive Health and a co-founder of Legacy ER & Urgent Care weighs in on the topic. He is a well-known authority in the field of emergency medicine and a pioneer in the area of Freestanding ERs and Urgent Care. “Chest pains are serious business, and the first thing you are likely to think about is a heart attack. Chest pains are the reason a lot of people, of all ages, suddenly drop everything and rush to the emergency room. We know that more than 70% of emergency room visits involving patients with insurance are usually for non-emergency conditions. But when it comes to chest pains, most people don’t want to take any chances by waiting to see their primary care physician. 

“Most people with chest pains aren’t in danger of imminent cardiac arrest. There are many other health conditions that can cause pains in your chest.” 

Common symptoms that accompany non-emergency chest pains

  • Gas
  • Acid reflux
  • Heartburn
  • Chest pains from coughs
  • Chest pains from heavy smoking 

“Telling the difference is not easy for a lot of people. If you are in doubt, visit the emergency room without delay. And because heart problems can be so dangerous, please note that you need emergency healthcare services if you experience any of the following symptoms: 

  • Your chest pains feel crushing, tight, squeezing or intense 
  • Suspect you are having a heart attack or have a history of heart attacks 
  • Experience persistent shortness of breath alongside chest pains” 

If you’re feeling a tightness in the chest, but it goes away with a few deep breaths, emergency treatment may not be required. But Dr. Jenna Liphart Rhoads Ph.D suggests that it may be worth mentioning this to your primary care provider. She also mentions that “if someone experiences tightness in their chest that is accompanied by feelings of impending doom, feeling dizzy or off-balance, struggling to breathe, feeling heaviness or weight on their chest, or pain, emergency treatment should be sought immediately.” 

We cannot stress the importance of chest pains enough. Even if it isn’t anything to worry about, it’s always best to take action fast, instead of delaying it. 

So in a nutshell.

When should you seek expert medical advice for tightness in the chest?

  • Your chest pains are tight, squeezing or intense
  • Your chest feels heavy 
  • You have a history of heart attacks
  • You suspect you may be having a heart attack
  • Experiencing shortness of breath/struggling to breathe alongside chest pains 
  • Feeling dizzy or off-balance 

If you’re experiencing any of the above, please seek medical attention immediately. 

Stress and anxiety

One fairly common cause of tightness in the chest may in fact be related to stress and anxiety. If you’re feeling fairly overwhelmed due to a particular situation, perhaps this could be the cause of your chest pains. It’s important that you still do not disregard this feeling. If you are feeling stressed or anxious, here are a few things that you can do to combat this. 

Dealing with stress and anxiety

Tightness in the chest: Why does my chest feel like this?

1. Exercise regularly

This doesn’t have to be intense HIIT sessions or hour-long outdoor runs. Regular exercise can be as minimal as a 15-minute brisk walk or a 10-minute cardio session. Keeping your body active is key to ensuring you’re physically fit and healthy. 

If you’re unsure where to start with your fitness journey, Auro can help to provide you with hundreds of free classes. All classes are guided by world-class trainers so you’re able to follow along with simple instruction. Classes range from HIIT, outdoor runs, strength, meditation, yoga, stretching, spin, treadmill and loads more. You can start your free trial here to check it out today.

Tightness in the chest: Why does my chest feel like this?

2. Meditation

Research looking at over 200 studies has found that meditation can help to reduce stress levels. Meditation empties all the information that is piling up in your mind every day. It is a great way to help tackle stress and anxiety by lowering cortisol levels (the stress hormone). Taking time out of the day to focus on your thoughts and be present can help to connect with yourself and relieve stress. If you lead a busy lifestyle and feel that you do not have the time to fit in some meditation, you do not have to spend hours doing it. In fact, just a few minutes of meditation a day can reduce stress and bring inner peace.

Many people also have this misconception that meditation is just sitting in a quiet spot with your eyes closed, cross legged. If this works for you, then go for it. But this isn’t what meditation is about. It’s about connecting with your thoughts, whether that’s laying down on your bed, on the floor, in the garden. Listening to music, cooking, cleaning – whatever it may be, as long as you’re finding your inner peace, there’s no ‘wrong’ or ‘right’ way to meditate. 

Tightness in the chest: Why does my chest feel like this?

3. Eating good foods

By eating the correct foods, your body will be fuelled for the day ahead and ready to thrive. Avoid any high calorie foods, such as processed meals and unhealthy snacks. But remember that balance is key. Be sure to incorporate small portions of ‘treats’ into your diet so you’re not helplessly craving for a bag of crisps every day.

Tightness in the chest: Why does my chest feel like this?

4. Sleep well

Ensure you’re getting the correct amount of sleep, in order for your muscles to recover each night. Struggling to fall asleep at night? Struggling to stay awake? Find out how many hours of sleep you need each night here

Tightness in the chest: Why does my chest feel like this?

5. Communicate

It’s so important to communicate with your friends, family members or anyone you feel comfortable speaking to. The more you get to speak about what’s concerning you, the better you will feel about it. And if you’re thinking “I don’t want to burden my friends or family with my problems,” then maybe find an anonymous online therapist that you can speak to. Majority of the time, your closest friends or family members just want to help you.

Tightness in the chest: Why does my chest feel like this?

6. Maintain a healthy work-life balance

We cannot stress the importance of this enough! Managing your workload and ensuring that you are giving yourself enough time to work and enjoy LIFE is so key. Work-related stress is so common, especially are majority of us are now working remotely. Your work has invaded your personal space. You’ve got your laptop set up in your kitchen, you’ve got kids running around with your important hard disks and everything is just chaos! 

But it’s not all bad! Just think about the beauty of waking up and not having to get on a bus, train or in the car early in the morning. You get to stroll down the stairs or to your office and just get your day started. Remember to take a step back every now and then. Work shouldn’t invade your personal life, it should complement it. Your life and your happiness is number one – so please always remind yourself of that.

The outcome

So these are just a few examples of the things that you can do to help combat stress and anxiety. In turn, this may also help with your tightness in the chest. But of course, as mentioned earlier, please seek medical attention if you are feeling any of the symptoms associated with tightness in the chest.