What is Chronic Chest Pain?

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  • Written By: Madeleine A.
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 22 October 2019
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Chronic chest pain refers to persistent pain in the chest area that returns even after therapeutic measures have been employed. Types of chronic chest pain include those that are cardiac in nature, including serious conditions such as angina and pericarditis. Other conditions that are not directly related to the heart, including asthma and anxiety, can also cause chronic chest pain.

Anginal pain that is related to cardiac insufficiency is typically a cause for chronic chest pain. Although often relieved with anti-anginal medications such as nitroglycerin, this type of pain often returns. The underlying cause of angina must be treated before the symptoms will subside in the long term.

Another cause of chronic chest pain is asthma. This respiratory condition is frequently diagnosed at a young age, and although there are many treatments that relieve pain and difficulty breathing, the extent of the disease often results in persistent chest or lung pain. Pleuritic pain refers to pain that is associated with irritation of the lining of the lungs. This is common with asthma and can cause substantial pain. It is important for the patient to maintain his therapeutic program in order to keep pain at bay.


Typically, chronic chest pain is a frequent manifestation of anxiety. During panic or anxiety attacks, large amounts of adrenaline are released, which can cause constriction or tightness to be felt in the chest. Although this frightening condition can mimic a heart attack, it is not considered serious. The chronic chest pain of anxiety attacks can be managed with either beta blocker medications or anti-anxiety medications. Anxiety can send people to emergency rooms, erroneously thinking a heart attack is in progress.

Sometimes, an infection can cause cardiac involvement which is referred to as pericarditis. This condition can produce an inflammation of the membrane or sac that surrounds the heart, along with fluid, which can cause significant chronic chest pain. Treatment for pericarditis includes administration of antibiotics to treat the underlying infection, and anti-inflammatory medications to reduce inflammation. Typically, as the infection resolves, chest pain resolves as well, usually with no long lasting effects.

Although many incidences of chronic chest pain are not serious, more ominous causes must be ruled out before effective treatment can be employed. Generally, diagnosis can include x-rays, blood tests and a complete medical history. Additionally, referral to the proper health care provider must be made, for example if the pain is related to a heart condition, a cardiologist should be seen. In addition, if chest pain is thought to be related to anxiety issues, a psychologist or psychiatrist may be able to effectively treat the problem.


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