What is precordial catch syndrome?
While it can be painful, it will usually go away on its own, and it leaves no lasting impact.
In this article, we look at the symptoms of precordial catch syndrome, along with why it occurs and what can be done to treat it.
- Precordial catch syndrome was first described by Miller and Texidor in 1955 after seeing it in 10 people, including Miller himself. They described it as a sharp, stabbing pain that started suddenly.
- In 1978, Sparrow and Bird reported that 45 otherwise healthy people had presented with the pain. They argued the condition was both common and underrecognized.
- People who experience precordial catch syndrome tend to grow out of it by the time they reach their 20s.
- Treatment is not usually required, but anti-inflammatory medicine may help reduce the pain.
Precordial catch syndrome causes pain in the chest, and usually occurs when a person is in a resting position.
Precordial catch syndrome normally occurs when a person is at rest, particularly if they are in a slouched position or if they are bending over.
People report feeling a sharp, stabbing or needle-like pain in the chest when breathing in. A person often feels the pain below the left nipple.
The pain, which has nothing to do with eating, usually only lasts for a short time. This can be between a couple of seconds and 3 minutes. It can happen just once or multiple times throughout the day.
Precordial catch syndrome is often made worse by deep breathing, but there is no tenderness in the area. It does not spread out to other areas of the chest, as pain caused by a heart attack would.
The severity of the pain varies between individuals. Some people experience a dull, annoying pain. Other people experience such intense pain that it can cause momentary vision loss or blurriness.
The pain, which tends to cover an area no bigger than one or two fingertips, completely goes away suddenly.
People with precordial catch syndrome experience no other symptoms or physical changes. They will not experience any paleness, flushing, or wheezing but may feel lightheaded from prolonged shallow breathing. Their pulse rate and rhythm remain normal.
Are there any complications?
Because it can hurt to breathe deeply, people with precordial catch syndrome tend to take shallow breaths, which can lead to light-headedness.
The nature of the pain can sometimes lead to anxiety, as people may think that it is a sign of a more serious cardiac condition, such as a heart attack. This can be made worse by unnecessary, extensive tests or referrals to cardiac specialists.
Bad posture, such as slouching, may cause precordial catch syndrome.
There is no obvious trigger for precordial catch syndrome. While the sudden onset of the pain may be scary, it is not caused by a heart attack or lung disease.
Experts think that the pain caused by precordial catch syndrome is caused by nerves getting pinched or irritated in the inner lining of the chest wall.
The symptoms come and go very suddenly, and they may start in the chest wall, ribs, or connective tissue.
Precordial catch syndrome can occur due to a growth spurt, bad posture, or an injury, such as a blow to the chest.
Who is at risk?
Precordial catch syndrome is most common in teenagers and young adults, but children as young as 6 years old can also experience it.
In rare cases, adults can also experience precordial catch syndrome.
Can it be prevented?
Precordial catch syndrome is sometimes caused by a growth spurt, which is not preventable.
Other causes, such as injury to the chest, can be avoided. Bad posture, including slouching, is a contributory factor, so standing or sitting straight may help prevent future episodes.
A doctor will rule out other, more serious causes of chest pain by taking a full medical history, assessing symptoms, and asking about any other health problems.
They will usually carry out a physical examination of the chest, looking for tenderness and listening to the heart and lungs.
Precordial catch syndrome is harmless and very common. In most cases, a doctor will not need to do any tests to diagnose it.
When should I see a doctor?
Someone who thinks they have precordial catch syndrome should seek medical attention if they have any underlying heart conditions, or if they develop other symptoms.
Anyone who experiences changes in the nature or frequency of the pain should visit a healthcare professional.
Improving posture and practising breathing exercises may help to treat precordial catch syndrome symptoms.
The pain associated with precordial catch syndrome will go away on its own, so specific treatment is not usually needed.
Doctors may recommend an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory to help relieve the pain.
Relaxing and taking slow breaths might help, as may changing posture from slouching or being bent over to sitting upright.
Some people have found that taking a deep breath makes precordial catch syndrome go away, but it may do so at the cost of a sharp, brief stab of pain. Most people who experience precordial catch syndrome advise taking shallow breaths until the pain goes away.
People may also benefit from being reassured that the condition is harmless.
Precordial catch syndrome usually affects just children and teenagers, and most will outgrow it by the time they reach their 20s.
It is a harmless condition, and there are no significant side effects as a result of it occurring.