November 12, 2009

Remedies, Treatment and Causes for Heaviness in Chest

Posted in Category : Common Ailments

Heaviness in the chest is usually a cause for concern, especially for those of us who are elderly or are suffering from any heart diseases. This is because chest heaviness or pressure is one of the first symptoms of a heart attack. Some of the other signs & symptoms that people are likely to experience in case of a heart attack include:

  • Anxiety
  • Coughing
  • Jaw and back pain
  • Nausea and sometimes vomiting
  • Pain in the center of the chest (not always present)
  • Palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Tingling or a severe ache in your left arm or shoulder
  • Weakness
  • Wheezing

The intensity of these symptoms varies from one person to the other, depending upon the severity of the attack. There have also been reports of “silent attacks”, where patients are not even aware of what is happening.

However, not all instances of heaviness in the chest are an indication of a major cardiovascular problem. There are several other factors that could be responsible for that heavy, constricted feeling in your chest. Some of the other causes of heaviness in chest could include -

Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease and Heartburn

GERD or acid reflux and heartburn are responsible for more than 60% of the non-cardiac chest pain and heaviness cases. These problems occur when your stomach acids back up into the esophagus through the sphincter. When the acids reach the level of the heart, you may experience severe pain and pressure in your chest area. GERD and heartburn tend to occur because of overeating, eating too fast, lying down after a meal or engaging in strenuous activity after eating. People who suffer from these problems regularly are generally advised to follow a specific diet.


This common respiratory problem affects people of all ages, including children. During an asthma attack, you may find it very difficult to breathe. Several asthmatic patients therefore complain about experiencing tightness or heaviness in the chest during an attack.


Angina chest pain and heaviness is a symptom of various health conditions, such as heart problems, inflammation in the chest walls, arterial plaque and high blood pressure. These conditions increase the pressure in your veins and arteries, which restricts the flow of blood. As a result, your heart is forced to work much harder than normal, which is what causes the pain.

Panic Attacks

People suffering from a panic or an anxiety attack often mistake it for a heart attack, because the symptoms are so similar. During a panic attack, you will feel tightness in your chest, probably along with trembling, palpitations, accelerated heartbeat, nervousness, restlessness and hyperactivity. Mistaking a panic attack for a heart attack can worsen the symptoms, as you are likely to get more worked up.

Aortic Aneurism

This condition occurs when there is a bulge or dilation in a part of the aortic wall. This is a serious problem, which can lead to chronic pain and tightness in the chest. Left untreated, aortic aneurism can lead to a rupture, which in turn causes internal bleeding.


Any injury, bruising or fracture in the rib cage can cause the muscles in your chest to get pulled or trapped, thereby resulting in chest muscle soreness.


Strange as this may sound, you could also experience chest heaviness as a result of a severe cold. This usually occurs when there is excessive mucus or congestion in the chest.


You may feel pain and heaviness in your chest because of other reasons, like:

  • Anemia
  • Contractions and spasms in the esophagus
  • Engaging in strenuous physical activity for a prolonged period of time
  • Esophageal hypersensitivity
  • Lung diseases (characterized by heaviness in lungs)
  • Gallstones
  • Hiatal hernia
  • Pneumonia


Before trying to treat the heaviness in your chest, it is important for you to identify its cause. Make it a point to visit your doctor or preferably a heart specialist, as soon as you experience this symptom. In addition to a detailed physical exam, your doctor may ask you to undergo a series of tests (depending on your symptoms), such as:

  • Complete blood count
  • Chest x ray
  • CT Scan and MRI of the chest
  • EKG
  • Exercise stress test
  • Echocardiogram
  • Angiography

The treatment path followed by the doctor will depend upon the results of the tests. In case it is confirmed that the pain is not caused by a serious health problem, your doctor will probably prescribe:

  • Narcotic pain medication
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like naproxen, ketoprofen and ibuprofen
  • Muscle relaxants

Home remedies and self-care measures that can help relieve the heaviness in your chest include:

  • Rest
  • Heat therapy and steam inhalation
  • Cold compresses
  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation

These self-care measures need to be practiced correctly in order to experience their benefits. It is best to check with your doctor on the how safe it is to practice these as it would depend on the severity of your condition.