Imagine having fun with friends and then suddenly you feel some heaviness in your chest. You may dismiss it as something not important or you may find yourself scared to death because you might think that it can be related to a fatal disease. Whatever the reason for what you are feeling, you need to be informed on what is happening to your body.
What Does Heaviness in the Chest Mean?
The feeling of heaviness in the chest can be caused by a lot of things such as problems in the heart, anxiety, associated with pregnancy, and many more. It is described as having pressure in the chest that restricts breathing and pain in the shoulders. It is a symptom that needs careful evaluation by a doctor to know the origin of the problem and for it to be treated accurately.
Because of the many possibilities of what is causing chest heaviness, it is recommended to visit your doctor right away when you feel this symptom and especially if the feeling causes discomfort on your part. Careful assessment by a medical professional can help you deal with the problem and know the truth about what is really happening inside your body. You may act normal now but you may never know what can happen to you the next time you feel heaviness in the chest area.
Area and Location and Associated Symptoms and Problems
Heaviness in the chest or sometimes referred to as chest pain, can often radiate in some parts of the body and other symptoms may also occur. Depending on the location of the pain and the characteristics, many problems can be easily diagnosed by just describing what you are feeling. Here are some common problems related to chest heaviness;
- Angina Pectoris – This condition occurs when there is a blockage in the blood flow in the heart causing disturbance in oxygen supply. The lack of oxygen will cause pain and the quality is described as tight, heavy and sometimes burning. The pain will radiate to the shoulders, arm, jaw and back and the pain will last for 1-3 minutes, occasionally it can last up to 10 minutes. Aside from chest pain, the patient will also experience dyspnea, nausea and swelling.
- Myocardial Infarction – Continuous reduction of blood flow to the heart that resulted to death of muscles in the heart. The quality of the pain in myocardial infarction is more severe compare to angina that cannot be relieved by changing position or by taking a rest. The pain may last for 20 minutes to several hours and it is accompanied by symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, sweating, and weakness. The pain usually radiates to the neck and the left arm.
- Panic Attack – When a person suddenly feels anxious about something, panic attack may occur that can cause chest heaviness. Panic attack can cause a person to feel tightness in the chest area, especially in the center. Aside from chest heaviness, the patient can also feel restlessness, sweating, hyperactivity, tachycardia, and shaking.
- GERD – Also known as Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease, this happens when the food, usually accompanied with gastric acid, goes back to the esophagus. This will cause pain in the chest, commonly described as heartburn, and sour taste in the mouth. The pain is felt in the center of the chest.
- Asthma – This happens when the airway of the lungs becomes too small due to swelling. Patients experiencing asthma will also experience chest tightness particularly in the subcostal areas. Other than that, patient may also experience shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing.
Heaviness in the Chest Causes
Chest heaviness that is felt after eating can be attributed to many conditions. The following are the common causes of chest heaviness associated with eating, when lying down, and with pain;
- Angina Pectoris – Most angina cases happen after the patient consumes a heavy meal. This happens because when a person is eating, great amount of oxygen is needed in some parts of the body to help digest the food. This will make the heart to work harder to be able to provide blood supply to the different parts of the body. If a person is having a problem with the blood flow in the heart, the heart will not be sufficed with the amount of oxygen that its getting thus it will continue to pound harder that will cause pain in the chest that is described as tight or heavy.
- GERD – This condition is usually caused by hiatal hernia, pregnancy, and failure of the lower esophageal sphincter, but this usually occurs after a person finishes eating especially if he eats too fast. The food, along with gastric acid, goes back to the esophagus causing heaviness in the chest or commonly described as heartburn.
When Lying Down
- Chronic Bronchitis – Is a condition in which the passageway of the lungs is swelling because of the continuous exposure to irritants in the air. The prolong exposure of the person with chronic bronchitis to irritants may cause narrowing of the passageway and mucus is produced. Patients who experience chronic bronchitis usually difficulty in breathing when they are lying down that is accompanied with chest heaviness, and wheezing.
- Congestive Heart Failure – This happens when the heart is already weak to perform its function properly. The heart cannot pump blood properly causing for the blood to flow back to the lungs and may result to pulmonary edema. Thus when the lungs are full of water, the patient feels heaviness in the chest and shortness of breath when he is lying down.
- Pericarditis – Inflammation of the pericardium, which surrounds the heart. When the irritated layers of the pericardium rub against each other as the heart pumps, the rubbing causes pain and chest heaviness afterwards. The pain can radiate to the neck and shoulders and it can also be felt when lying down, chewing food, and when you breathe.
- Pneumonia – The air sacs of the lung are inflamed which is caused by bacteria or virus. The inflamed air sacs will reduce the amount of oxygen that is distributed from the lungs to the blood stream. The symptoms of pneumonia include cough, difficulty in breathing, chest pain and heaviness, fever and many more.
Heaviness in the Chest Area – During Pregnancy
As the woman’s body tries to accommodate a growing fetus inside her body, there are symptoms that a pregnant woman will feel such as chest heaviness. Chest heaviness usually happens when the increasing size of the fetus will push the diaphragm. As a result, breathing is labored and the feeling of heaviness is felt around the chest area.
Although chest heaviness is normal for pregnant mothers, persistent chest heaviness is a concern because this may signal other things such as problems in the heart, which is a concern especially for a woman who is expected to give birth. If you feel that you usually feel chest tightness and it becomes bothersome, you need to seek the advice of a doctor immediately.
Treatments and Remedies
Treating chest heaviness depends on the cause of the symptom. There are many reasons for chest heaviness and treatment can just be properly given when the origin of the problem is determined. The following are the common treatments and remedies when one experiences chest heaviness;
- Exercise – When the chest heaviness is caused by colds, being physically active will help you breath easily and encourage blood circulation inside your body. The feeling of congestion that gives chest heaviness will go away and you can breathe normally again.
- Eat slowly – GERD or Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease usually happens when a person eats too fast. Thus eating slowly and properly chewing your food can help you prevent GERD.
- Antihistamines and Steroids – Because some of the causes for chest heaviness are diseases in the lungs, relieving the passageway of the airways in the lung can help ease the feeling of heaviness in the chest.
- Medications – Problems in the heart such as angina and myocardial infarction can be treated by drinking medications made especially for these conditions such as streptokinase, beta blockers, nitroglycerin, and many more. These medications will help patients with cardiac problems in their chest pain and relieve them from feeling heavy in the chest. Furthermore, when one is already experiencing acid reflux, antacids can be helpful in treating the problem.
- Surgery – Some conditions such as pulmonary embolism and heart problems need to have surgery right away to help them in their illness. This will remove or repair the culprit that is making the patient feel tight or heavy in the chest area.