Tightness in Chest – Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment


What is Tightness in Chest?

Chest tightness is a medical condition that is basically defined by alteration in comfort that is emitted on the chest and can even radiate to neighboring areas of the body. Usually, a person suffering from this condition would complain of immediate of a sudden pressure sensation on the chest. A person with such manifestation would seem to identify this as a sign of threat in health as this is known to be a typical sign of a cardiovascular disease. There could also be other underlying conditions associated to such ailment and should be readily resolved when identified. It is a grave manifestation that should not be taken lightly as this can place a great threat in one’s life.

Tightness in Chest pictures

Tightness of Chest

Associated Symptoms & Signs

Tightness in chest can mean a number of conditions. There are two associated medical conditions or general conditions of chest tightness. Tightness in the chest can provide different associated signs and symptoms according to these general conditions:

Cardiac Problems.

  • Pain is generally located in the chest and is mostly complained by the affected as deep pressure and squeezing pain.
  • Nausea is noted and that the affected may also manifest vomiting, when pain becomes extreme.
  • Falling to unconsciousness is a rare sign but can be possible as lightheadedness is commonly experienced by the affected.
  • The pain or discomfort can radiate from the center of the chest towards the shoulders, neck, jaw and even the arms.
  • A change in the heart rate is noted. Increase in heart rate is a typical sign of tightness in chest, and can be a form of compensation of the cardiovascular system. Heart palpitations are noted.
  • The affected shall experience pallor or paleness along with a cold clammy skin.

Non-cardiac Problems.

  • The entire chest is affected of tightness or pressure sensation.
  • Chest fullness is regularly complained.
  • The patient shall complain of aggravation of the pain sensation when lying down.
  • Shortness of breath is identified. Because of this, the client tends to hyperventilate in order to compensate for the lack of oxygen.
  • Anxiety is a form of symptom that is accompanied by sweating, nervousness and difficulty of sleeping.
  • Abdominal pain and feeling of stomach fullness. A feeling of indigestion is a common manifestation when the GI tract is the known cause of tightness in chest.


There are a number of causes for tightness in chest. The ailment itself has many triggering factors which signify this condition as needing immediate care and attention. The following are the said causes and risk factors of chest tightness:

  • Asthma. This said condition is considered as a triggering factor or includes chest tightness as a manifestation. This has also been a classical sign of asthma. This is due to the weakening and inflammation that occurs on our smooth muscles, that it can affect the neighboring vital organs in the chest area. The inflammation itself that occurs in the disease process makes chest tightness a manifestation in an aggravating manner but then can be relieved as medical help is given.
  • Activity. A proposed said activity can be a great possibility of chest tightness. This is known to cause such phenomenon as a physical activity can place strain to a person in a way that can result to an asthma attack and possibly reducing the amount of air that the heart needs. Air or oxygenated air is quite essential in the regulation of the cardiovascular system; the alteration to its content or level shall place a great effect in pumping system.
  • Coronary artery disease. This is a condition that has great influence in resulting to chest tightness. A coronary artery disease, once untreated, can result to obstruction and a possible permanent damage to the arteries that induces chest pain. CAD is a very delicate condition that chest pain is not the only aggravating manifestation of the disease for it can result to radiating pain from the chest towards the left arm or jaw.
  • Emotional upset. This is greatly influential to chest tightness. A panic attack is a form of emotional upset that commonly results to chest tightness or includes tightness in chest as a manifestation. This should also place an alarm to the affected for this may indicate an underlying heart condition that has been developing or has already developed.
  • Lack of magnesium levels in blood. Magnesium is a very essential component of our system as this helps regulate our body’s nerve and muscle functions. When lack of magnesium is noted, it is a possible cause for a heart disease. Take note, excess magnesium levels can also be life-threatening and should not be abused when treating a heart ailment.
  • Bacterial infection. This is another form of cause of tightness in chest. This can result to chest tightness when a person is suffering from bacterial infection of the lungs. In the same mechanism of asthma, once inflammation is aggravated, chest tightness is one of the many manifestations of the disease.
  • Bronchitis and pneumonia. These two respiratory conditions are known causative of chest tightness. Once infection is aggravated and that inflammation has become uncontrolled, the mechanism triggers chest tightness along with all the presenting symptoms of both diseases.
  • Caffeine intake. Increase intake or above regular intake of caffeinated drinks would most likely result to chest tightness. This is due to the chemical caffeine’s effect to our system, especially the smooth muscles. It basically results to constriction of our smooth muscles and even our joints and soft tissues.
  • Gastrointestinal disease. This is a possibility as disorders of the GI tract can affect the normal processes of the heart or cardiac system. GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease is a common condition that results to chest tightness.


There are a number of diagnostic examinations for chest tightness. The following examinations are considered necessary as to rule out other possible conditions. Here are the following tests done for tightness in chest:

ECG or electrocardiogram.

This is shall record the electrical activity of the heart. In order to identify for an underlying heart condition, this test is necessary as it can rule out any cardiovascular condition and other possible disease.

Stress test

This can help identify presence of a coronary artery disease. Stress test can help rule out other possible conditions that involve the respiratory and gastrointestinal systems.

Complete pulmonary function tests

This is composed of a group of tests that shall measure the wellness of the respiratory system or basically the lungs.


Treatment for chest tightness would depend on the cause. In general, the condition is treated through:

  • Medications. Anxiolytics, medications that relieve anxiety symptoms, are prescribed by the doctor. Antidepressants are also provided. Depending on the cardiac disease, certain medications are provided to relieve the discomfort that comes along with chest tightness. Treatment of any form of respiratory condition is to be prioritized when condition suggests.
  • Surgical intervention. This may be necessary when it comes to gastrointestinal conditions.
  • Therapy that can help in relieving stress is necessary. Providing relaxation techniques are one of the coping methods provided for patients.

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