For many, an experience of chest pain leads to panic and the assumption that it must be related to the heart, worst-case scenario being a heart attack or a myocardial infarction. However, there are a whole slew of reasons why someone might experience chest pain that has nothing to do with the heart. This group of health issues is referred to as non-cardiac chest pain (NCCP).
Experiencing NCCP can be terrifying, as this chest pain is often experienced as a squeezing or burning sensation with pains radiating to other parts of the body such as the neck, arms, back, and even the jaw. About one in four Americans has had or will experience an incident of NCCP.
Continue reading to learn more about ten different chest pain causes that are unrelated to the heart.
1. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
Hands down the most common cause of NCCP (accounting for 22 to 66% of cases) is gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), also known as acid reflux. GERD is caused by the release of stomach acid into the esophagus, the tube that food travels down that connects the throat and stomach. The most often used diagnostic test for GERD is known as a barium swallow in which an x-ray is used to create an image of the esophagus.
The most commonly recommended treatment for GERD is a change of lifestyle, especially a change of eating habits. Eating large quantities as well as eating close to bedtime can increase the likelihood of GERD. Certain foods can also exacerbate GERD including foods high in acidity like citrus juice and tomatoes, and foods high in fat such as chocolate and beef.
If a lifestyle change does not provide adequate benefits, drug therapy such as the use of antacids, histamine 2 blockers, or proton pump inhibitors might be recommended.