Tightness in chest: Causes and symptoms

Tightness in chest

Tightness in chest can be a discomforting sensation experienced between the upper abdomen and the neck. Chest tightness can occur at any age and can be a sign of a serious health problem.


More often than not, chest tightness is a sign of a cardiovascular event or issue such as heart attack or cardiovascular disease. It can also be brought on by excess caffeine, anxiety, or indigestion.

In order to narrow down on your cause for chest tightness, it’s important to be aware of your risk factors for various ailments. For example, if you have high cholesterol and blood pressure, your tightness in chest could be related to matters of the heart. If you’ve just had more coffee than usual, than caffeine is the cause, and the uncomfortable sensation will resolve on its own. But if chest tightness is random or sudden, you should seek medical attention right away.

Also read: What causes chest congestion and how to get rid of it?

Causes of tightness in chest

There are many different causes associated with tightness in chest:

Angina: This is the pain emanating from the heart due to lack of healthy blood flow in the blood vessels lined with fat. As a result, blood gets stuck, causing the heart to overwork and triggering the pain and chest tightness.

Indigestion: When food is not well digested, it will travel upward into the esophagus. Indigestion can be a result of a poor diet, stress, or smoking and drinking alcohol.

Infection of the gallbladder: Infection of the gallbladder can result in tightness of chest. The good news is, it can be easily treated. The bad news is, many people overlook the symptoms of gallbladder infections, delaying the diagnosis and treatment.

Pleurisy: This is a type of lung infection which causes pain while breathing or coughing. Pleurisy is not a very common condition, but it is still a viable cause of tightness in chest.

Myocardial infarction (heart attack): One of the first symptoms a person may experience when having a heart attack is tightness in chest. It’s important that a heart attack is treated immediately or else it can have deadly outcomes.

Costochondritis: Joints located in the chest protect the organs, but when they become inflamed they can lead to tightness in chest. This type of pain typically feels like stabbing. Although not threatening, you should still see your doctor about reducing the inflammation.

Stress: Stress causes your organs to become erratic, and so during highly stressful times, chest pains and tightness may occur. This pain may also worsen as the stress level increases, you should find a way to relax and calm down, especially if you already have a heart condition.

Pneumonia: This is another condition that affects the lungs, more specifically, an infection attacking the lungs. It is treatable, but if left untreated, the lungs may fill up with fluid, increasing the risk of complications and death. Pneumonia poses greatest threat to small children and seniors.

Hepatitis: Hepatitis is a type of liver disease, but it can result in chest pains and tightness.

Anxiety: Anxiety can impede on your ability to breathe and increasing your heart rate. Once the anxiety subsides, you will find that your tightness in chest has subsided, too.

Also read: How to get rid of anxiety chest pain

Symptoms of chest tightness

Chest tightness on its own is a symptom of another condition. To help identify the cause of chest tightness, it’s important to pay attention to any accompanying symptoms. Other symptoms that may be present along with tightness in chest include cough, flared nostrils, wheezing, abdominal pain, feeling as if food is stuck in your chest, food regurgitation, indigestion, nausea and vomiting, anxiety, racing thoughts, stress, and sweating.


Serious symptoms associated with chest tightness that indicate issues with the heart include change in one’s level of consciousness, chest pain that spreads to the arms, back, or neck, difficulty breathing, bluish color of skin or nails, coughing up yellow phlegm, pressure or cramping in the chest, severe dizziness or disorientation, severe heart palpitations, and chest tightness that is sudden and accompanied by shortness of breath.

Tightness in chest can be a scary experience, especially because it’s so closely associated with your heart. If lifestyle habits aren’t the cause for your pain, you will want to have yourself checked out in order to prevent any complications.


Author Bio

Emily Lunardo studied medical sociology at York University with a strong focus on the social determinants of health and mental illness. She is a registered Zumba instructor, as well as a Canfit Pro trainer, who teaches fitness classes on a weekly basis. Emily practices healthy habits in her own life as well as helps others with their own personal health goals. Emily joined Bel Marra Health as a health writer in 2013.


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