Many health conditions can cause chest pain. Healthcare professionals may use the term nonanginal chest pain to refer to chest pain in people without heart disease.
Nonanginal chest pain, which doctors may also call noncardiac chest pain, refers to pain a person without heart disease may feel behind the breast bone. The pain may feel similar to angina, but it occurs due to different causes.
However, according to 2020 research from Europe, around 83% of those with chest pain and discharged from the ER had noncardiac chest pain. This type of pain often results from issues with the esophagus, lungs, or other causes.
This article discusses what nonanginal chest pain may feel like, its potential causes, and when to speak with a doctor.
Nonanginal chest pain may feel like pressure or squeezing pain behind the breast bone that may extend to the neck, back, or left arm. A person may also experience other symptoms such as heartburn or regurgitation alongside the chest pain.
People may notice it after eating or drinking, and it may last a few seconds to many hours.
There are many possible causes of chest pain other than heart-related issues. Other organs or body parts in the chest can also cause chest pain.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and other gastrointestinal issues
GERD is a chronic condition where a person’s stomach contents flow back to their esophagus.
Other possible esophageal and gastrointestinal causes of nonanginal pain may include:
- esophageal motility disorders
- Barrett’s esophagus, when different tissue replaces the typical lining of the esophagus
- Schatzki ring, when a circular band of mucosal tissue forms at the end of the food pipe closest to the stomach
- hypersensitive esophagus
- biliary colic
- gastric and duodenal ulcers
- trauma to the chest, such as a rib fracture or recent surgery
- conditions such as fibromyalgia and costochondritis — inflammation of the cartilage that connects the ribs to the breastbone
- intercostal muscle strain, an injury affecting the muscles between two or more ribs.
- pneumothorax, or collapsed lung
- pulmonary embolism
- pleurisy, or inflammation of the lung’s outer lining
- pneumomediastinum, when air is present in the space between the lungs and surrounding the heart
Healthcare professionals may use the term intercostal neuralgia to refer to any
Some individuals with nonanginal chest pain also have existing psychiatric conditions, including:
- somatic symptom disorder, when a person has excessive thoughts and feelings relating to physical symptoms
Additionally, some people with nonanginal chest pain may be living with heart-focused anxiety. Healthcare professionals may define this as an increased fear, avoidance, or vigilance of cardiovascular symptoms.
If a person experiences pressure-like chest pain or discomfort in the left or center of the chest that
Other major symptoms of a heart attack may include:
- feeling lightheaded, weak, or faint
- discomfort or pain in the back, neck, or jaw
- shortness of breath
- pain or discomfort in one or both shoulders or arms
- unexplained tiredness
People should call 911 immediately if they think they may be experiencing a heart attack.
GERD often causes nonanginal chest pain. However, people experiencing chest pain should speak with a healthcare professional who can diagnose the cause of the pain.
Nonanginal chest pain is a common symptom of many conditions, ranging from gastrointestinal problems to psychiatric conditions. It may feel like a pressure or squeezing pain behind the breast bone.
People should speak with a healthcare professional to find out what may be causing their chest pain. A person should call 911 if they think they may be experiencing a heart attack.