What causes chest cramps?

Chest cramps are a common yet often frightening symptom with a wide variety of causes. The cramps, which can range from a dull, general ache to a sharp stabbing pain, can be mild or severe, and can last for long periods of time or just seconds. While chest cramps are often due to minor problems like heartburn, health experts often recommend seeing a doctor if chest pains occur, as they can sometimes be a sign of serious health problems or even deadly.

Less serious causes of chest cramps include heartburn, muscle tears, or broken bones. Heartburn is caused by stomach acid backing up into the esophagus, which can lead to severe chest pain, but is usually easily treated with antacids. Muscle tears can occur due to injury or strenuous exercise, often presenting as a dull ache in the upper body or sharp pains caused by performing specific movements. A broken rib or sternum can also cause severe chest cramps and requires immediate medical attention.

Chest pains can be caused by respiratory conditions, such as asthma, bronchitis, or pneumonia. Typically, the pain occurs when inhaling and can feel like intense pressure. Respiratory illness can also cause coughing fits, which can cause pain and throbbing in the chest muscles.

Some people experience chest pain or cramps as a result of emotional distress, anxiety, or panic disorders. In extreme cases, patients can experience a condition known as stress cardiomyopathy or broken heart syndrome, where acute stress causes symptoms almost identical to those of a heart attack. Since this can be a life-threatening problem, people who develop chest cramps while under severe stress are often advised to seek immediate treatment.

Angina is a medical condition that often results in severe cramping throughout the chest. Caused by a variety of systemic problems, sore throat refers to pain caused when the heart cannot get enough oxygen. Common causes of angina include narrowing of the coronary arteries and arterial spasms. The chest cramps associated with this condition are often quite severe and can cause pain in the shoulders and jaw.

Chest pains can be a symptom of a heart attack, also known as a coronary thrombosis. This life-threatening condition is often the result of a blocked artery that prevents blood or oxygen from reaching the heart. Cramps that may indicate a heart attack often involve stabbing pain on the left side of the body. Prompt medical attention is often vital to survival.

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