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There are many symptoms to describe non-cardiac pain or discomfort and different people may experience them in various ways. Some may describe their condition as a pressure/pain in the chest, pressure/pain in the upper abdomen, pressure/pain in the ribs, and so on. Some people complain that their symptoms are made worse by breathing or coughing or moving.

Before anything else, the first thing most doctors or healthcare providers will do when a patient gives complaints such as these will be to eliminate a cardiac cause, such as angina or heart attack.

Having said that, if a patient is not found to be suffering from a cardiac-related event, a doctor will proceed to consider other possible causes for your symptoms.

Possible Non-Cardiac Causes Of Chest Discomfort

The rib cage is a sturdy structure composed of two sets of 12 ribs on each side of the chest. It helps protect the organs in the chest, including the heart, lungs, esophagus, and large vessels. The ribs are attached to flat bone (sternum) in the center of the chest with their cartilages. Under the lower part of chest and the rib cage, in the upper part of the abdomen are the diaphragm, a large dome-shaped muscle, the liver (right side), and the stomach (left side).

It is important to be aware of these structures because any of these may be involved in symptoms that present as non-cardiac causes of chest discomfort or pain. Furthermore, an enlarging uterus with a developing baby that kicks on the upper abdomen may give a sensation of pressure in the lower chest. In fact, any structure in the abdomen that enlarges, such as an ovarian tumor or a gastric tumor may cause a dull pressure on the upper abdomen or lower chest area.

Another possible cause of pressure sensation in the lower chest is a hiatus hernia, wherein the stomach bulges up into the lower chest through an opening (hiatus) in the diaphragm. People who have a hiatus hernia may have no symptoms, although others may experience heartburn and chest pain that can be confused with a heart attack.

Lung problems may cause pain and discomfort in the chest, but these are most likely to be accompanied by respiratory symptoms such as cough, fever, difficulty breathing, and more. Problems that involve the digestive system may be accompanied by symptoms like heartburn, gas, belching, and fullness.

Problems in the rib/ribcage such as chostochondritis or rib fracture may be accompanied by pain that is made worse by coughing or deep breathing. Muscle strain involving muscles in the chest between the ribs can cause chest pain while coughing hard or doing strenuous activities.

A more common potential cause of chest discomfort/pain is anxiety, depression and panic attacks. Associated symptoms may include dizziness, palpitations, shortness of breath, trembling, and tingling sensations. Some people who experience musculoskeletal pain, multiple "tender points," and fatigue have fibromyalgia. They may also experience trouble sleeping, headaches, morning stiffness, painful periods, and problems with memory and thinking.

To find out the cause of your chest discomfort/pain, consult a doctor. Sometimes, modification of lifestyle habits may improve your symptoms, especially if they are related to stress, lack of exercise, or overweight.

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