Suffering from substernal chest pain can be quite painful. It is a type of pain felt behind the sternum bone; a flat bone located in the middle of the chest. This bone may also be referred to as the breastbone. Due to the relative location of substernal pain, it is often confused with a variety of different medical conditions, which can induce unnecessary anxiety in sufferers.
Chest pain of any nature prompts medical professionals to think of cardiogenic issues first. They want to rule out the most pressing issues first, like those involving vital organs.
Potential substernal chest pain causes include myocardial infarction (heart attack), pulmonary embolism, aortic stenosis, stable angina pectoris, acute coronary syndrome, atrial fibrillation, pneumonia, and severe anxiety and panic attacks, just to name a few.
Depending on the specific cause of the substernal chest pain, symptoms will differ. However, the common feature across all cases is mild to severe chest pain. Substernal chest pain might be abrupt or remain mild for several days before becoming severe.
Substernal chest pain is commonly described as sharp, agonizing, compressing, and crushing in nature. The features that physicians rely on to diagnose it are the associated symptoms that accompany substernal chest pain. Some associated symptoms include:
Serious cases of chest pain will usually be looked into further. A full workup, including medical history and a physical exam, will be done to rule out potential cardiac causes. This is often the first step in all serious cases of chest pain. It will help provide any additional clues that can be used as evidence before proceeding to additional testing. Additional tests for diagnosis include:
Substernal chest pain treatment will first rely on correctly identifying the underlying cause. Once this has been achieved, proper treatment can ensue.
Cardiac pathology will often need to be assessed in depth, as minor invasive procedures may be needed to properly treat the cause of chest pain. This is especially true in acute coronary artery syndrome patients, where the blood vessels of the heart become significantly blocked, restricting blood flow. Management of heart attack cases will utilize a combination of treatment measures including blood thinners, thrombolytics, nitroglycerine, and aspirin.
Serious cases may require surgery.
In more common causes of substernal chest pain, such as acid reflux, the use of medications to reduce stomach acid is commonly implemented.
If substernal chest pain is found to be psychogenic in nature, as is the case in those suffering from anxiety and panic attacks, mood relaxers and antidepressants may be prescribed. Additionally, cognitive behavioral and psychological therapy may also be implemented.
Any case of substernal chest pain should not be ignored, as it can be difficult to say for sure that it is due to a serious or non-serious cause. However, using your better judgment and recognizing that your particular cause is not normal will be the first step in recovery. With the help of a medical professional, you can find the reasons behind your particular case of substernal pain, helping you address potential harmful medical conditions as soon as possible.