Pain in the left side of the chest is always a cause of great concern as it may be associated with severe medical conditions such as heart attacks. However, this may not always be true. The left side chest pain you experience may be the result of a less life threatening condition. On the flipside, the chest pain may also be the symptom of a more severe condition and should not be overlooked.
What Causes Left Side Chest Pain?
Myocardial infarction (heart attack) is caused by arteries being blocked. The heart is a muscle that works 24 hours a day and requires an adequate amount of oxygen filled blood to work properly. When plaque builds up, it begins to block this blood from getting to the heart.
When the heart stops getting the oxygen filled blood, it stops working properly and may stop working altogether. When the blockage remains for more than 15 minutes you will notice a pain in the left side of the chest begin to develop and move into the left shoulder and neck as the heart tissues begin to die.
Cardiac Ischemia is when the heart is getting inadequate amounts of blood over time and can eventually lead to heart attack, irregular heart rhythm, or heart failure. The muscles of the heart will become damaged and ineffective. The most common symptom is left chest pain.
This is the most common left side chest pain in middle-aged adults. It is most often described as a feeling of pressure buildup, along with tightness and constriction of the left side chest area. It is not uncommon for this pain to spread into the lower jaw, shoulder, back, and arm.
The intercostal nerves lie between the ribs in the chest cavity. When they become injured due to an infection or trauma, they cause severe pain. Most of the time it is a sharp, shooting, stabbing pain. The pain can worsen as one coughs, sneezes, laughs, or touches the damaged region.
Intercostal neuralgia is diagnosed when all other organic reasons for the left side chest pain are eliminated. It is difficult to diagnose and cannot be detected by x-rays.
Costochondritis occurs when the costosternal joint, the joint where the ribs connect to the sternum, becomes inflamed. This localized, sharp left chest pain is most commonly experienced by teenagers or young adults.
This left side chest pain is caused by trauma to the chest or viral infections and can worsen after activity. However, it can be treated with physiotherapy and anti-inflammatory medications.
Respiratory Tract Ailments
Chronic and short-term ailments in the respiratory tract can cause left side chest pain. Some of the most common conditions are asthma, bronchitis, cancer, lung abscess, pneumonia, and tuberculosis.
These may cause mild to acute left side chest pain accompanied by other symptoms such as coughing, sputum, shortness of breath, and a fever. Both the infections and noninfectious autoimmune conditions share the same symptoms and should be diagnosed by a medical doctor.
Acidity, Gas and Heartburn
Acid buildup, gas, and heartburn can cause mild to severe pain in the left side of your chest. These all develop in your intestines and move to the chest area. When the pressure pushes against the wall, you feel the pain. You may experience bloating, flatulence, and abdominal pain alongside the left chest pain. You should not ignore this pain as it is very similar to that of a heart attack. It is important to receive proper diagnosis from your doctor.
Left Pectoral Strain
Athletes and those involved in contact sports or strenuous exercises may experience left side chest pain due to left pectoral strain. It is not uncommon for the pain to move to the left shoulder or armpit and increase with activity.
Having a torn or pulled pectoral muscle can be easily diagnosed by touching the location of the left side chest pain. The best treatment is rest and sometimes over-the-counter pain medication to ease the pain.
Pleuritis is diagnosed when the lining of the lung becomes inflamed. Breathing, coughing, and sneezing may cause an acute pain in left side chest. The most common causes are bacterial or viral infections, pulmonary embolisms, and pneumothorax. Depending on the diagnosis, pleuritic can be treated with anti-inflammatory or pain relieving medications.
A hiatal hernia occurs when the stomach pushes into the chest through the hiatus. Some may never experience symptoms, but some may experience left side chest pain, heartburn, or reflux. The pain may even worsen when you lie down. Most of the time the pain will subside on its own; however, it may be a rare case that needs to be surgically altered.
Stress, obesity, and diabetes may be the cause of left side chest pain. Stress may not be a direct link to heart attack, but it is important that you consult your doctor if you feel you experience pain from stress.
Obesity and diabetes may also lead to other health conditions if not properly treated. Most of the time they can be avoided by changing your diet, altering your health routine, and lowering your amount of smoking and alcohol.
Left side chest pain can accompany many left side abdominal pains. Several organs lie just beneath the left chest cavity. Kidney infections, kidney stones, pain in the spleen, and gastritis are just a few of the ailments that may cause left side chest pain. This pain may even be heightened when eating, after eating, or when breathing.
When to Worry About Left Side Chest Pain
When you have sudden onset of left side chest pain, call your doctor immediately. You may also need to call if the pain does not go away or is untreatable with anti-inflammatories. Never make your own diagnosis, as left side chest pain may be the symptom of a more severe medical condition.
Call your doctor immediately if you have left side chest pain accompanied by fever, chills, or coughing, swallowing difficulty, or severe pain that does not go away.
Call 911 immediately if you have a sudden feeling of pressure, squeezing, tightness or crushing around your breastbone; chest pain that spreads; a sudden, sharp pain with a shortness of breath; nausea, dizziness, increased heart rate, sweating, or confusion; low blood pressure or slowed heart rate.