What Are Chest Pains?
Chest pain can be terrifying, but there are many causes of chest pain, and not all of them are serious. Of course, angina, heart attacks and collapsed lungs all cause chest pain, but muscle soreness is often a cause, too.
Chest pain can signal a serious medical condition that requires immediate medical attention. The correct treatment for chest pain can only be determined once the cause is properly diagnosed.
You might wonder whether you can prevent or treat chest pain with natural remedies. If the cause isn’t serious, you can, but talk to your doctor first. Your doctor may wish to prescribe you medication instead.
Characteristics of Chest Pain
The severity of your chest pain and any accompanying symptoms will likely determine its cause. Chest pain isn’t always an indicator that something’s wrong with your heart; it might indicate an issue with your lungs.
- Pressure, fullness, squeezing, burning or tightness in your chest
- Crushing or searing pain that moves to your back, neck, jaw, shoulders and one or both arms
- Pain that lasts more than a few minutes, gets worse with activity, goes away and comes back, or varies in intensity
- Shortness of breath
- Cold sweats or hot flashes
- Dizziness or weakness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Sudden heaviness, weakness or aching in one or both arms
- A sour taste in your mouth or a sensation of food re-entering your mouth
- Trouble swallowing
- Pain that gets better or worse when you change your position
- Pain that intensifies when you breathe deeply or cough
- Tenderness when you push on your chest
- Persistent pain
Lung discomfort or difficulty breathing may feel similar to a heart attack and will likely worsen during activity and improve when resting.
If a respiratory condition is the source of your pain, you may experience symptoms such as a sharp pain that occurs when inhaling or coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing that produces phlegm and rapid heartbeat, among other symptoms (x).
Causes of Chest Pain
Left Chest Pain
The left side of your body houses a number of vital organs, and severe pain on the left side of your chest may require immediate medical attention. The heart, spleen, stomach, pancreas, left lung, left kidney and large intestine all rest under and around your left breastbone.
Here are the most common causes of pain on the left side of your chest:
- Pericarditis (x)
- Heart attack (often caused by coronary thrombosis) (x)
- Angina (x)
- Myocarditis (x)
- Cardiomyopathy (x)
- Collapsed left lung (pneumothorax) (x)
- Lung cancer
- Pulmonary hypertension (x)
- Pulmonary embolism (x)
- Precordial catch syndrome (common in older children and young adults) (x)
- Pleurisy (x)
- Chest injuries
- Gastritis (x)
- Pancreatitis (x)
- Spleen injury
- Hiatal hernia (x)
Sudden chest pains with breathing difficulty, chest pressure or dizziness might be life threatening, so be aware of your body and what it may be trying to tell you.
Right Chest Pain
Pain on the right side of the chest is generally not related to the heart. Rather, you could be experiencing symptoms related to inflammation, anxiety, stress or muscle strain. Common causes of chest pain on the right side of the chest include gallbladder inflammation (cholecystitis), liver disease, GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease, esophageal spasm or mediastinal tumors (x, x, x, x).
Pain on the right side of your chest may not be as alarming as pain on the left side. Nevertheless, talk to your doctor if your pain worsens over time.
Chest tightness is similar to chest pain, but not as painful. However, it usually worsens with certain activities. Possible causes of chest tightness include anxiety, intercostal muscle strain, pneumonia, asthma peptic ulcers and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (x, x, x).
Though it may seem chest tightness isn’t cause for alarm, you may want to talk to your doctor if your pain worsens over time (x).
Remedies and Supplements for Chest Pain
What can you do to stay healthy and alleviate your chest pain? A number of foods are rich in the nutrients and vitamins you need to keep your heart and lungs healthy (x).
A healthy diet is crucial and often the best way to prevent health complications. According to the American Heart Association, you should avoid foods that contain high amounts of saturated fats, which raise blood cholesterol levels, and high amounts of cholesterol, which increases your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Foods high in saturated fats include red meat, dairy products, lamb, pork, poultry and fish (x). The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends limiting your saturated fats to less than 10 percent of your daily caloric intake. Foods low in saturated fats include fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole grains, starchy vegetables and roots (x).
Supplements for Heart Health
Protecting your heart by changing your diet may not be easy and won’t happen overnight, but taking supplements can help. These are a handful of the most common heart-healthy supplements available:
- Omega-3s fight inflammation, build healthy cell membranes and repair tissues.
- Magnesium lowers the risk of cardiac arrest caused by low magnesium levels.
- Coenzyme Q10 regulates blood pressure and facilitates important cellular functions such as electron transport.
- Green tea can help reduce blood pressure, triglycerides and total cholesterol (x).
- Garlic supports your heart by promoting healthy cholesterol and blood pressure.
Supplements for Lung Health
- Omega-3s fight inflammation and boost cell health in your lungs.
- Vitamin D supports the immune system, fights inflammation and regulates smooth muscles in the airways (x).
- Antioxidants like vitamins A, C and E promote white blood cell development.
- Ginseng root improves pulmonary function and exercise capacity.
- N-acetyl l-cysteine (NAC) helps replenish glutathione, a powerful antioxidant.
- Zinc gluconate supports your immune system and your heart.
- Melatonin regulates sleep and introduces antioxidants to the body.
Supplements for Pain
Having a chronic heart or respiratory disorder can cause frequent chest pain, and taking painkillers daily can damage certain organs.
How can you alleviate pain naturally? There are several supplements that could make a big difference. For example, turmeric contains a natural anti-inflammatory compound called curcumin that can help relieve pain. Devil’s claw is a spiny herb that can reduce both pain and inflammation. And, of course, there’s white willow bark, which reduces inflammation and contains salicin, a compound with effects similar to aspirin (x).
The Bottom Line
When you have chest pain, especially if the pain is severe and persistent, talk to your doctor or call for medical help. Ask your doctor about adding supplements to your diet. Not all supplements work the same for everyone, and some can interact with other medications.