Stabbing Chest Pain: What Can Cause Stabbing Pain in Chest?

Chest pain is experienced by a lot of people these days, irrespective of their gender or age. Having chest pain is always a cause of worry and should never be taken lightly. Chest pain can be a great cause of worry for the patient. Chest pain again is of different types. The intensity of the chest pain can vary. The pain in the chest can be a dull constant ache or intermittent pain. Chest pain can be felt as a squeezing, tight sensation or as a fluttering sensation in the chest. It can be a sharp, shooting or stabbing kind of chest pain or a pain which comes and goes. It can also be felt as a burning type of pain in chest. Chest pain can also radiate to other parts of body or it can be localized to a single region in the chest.

Stabbing Chest Pain

So, we can safely say that chest pain comes in all shapes and sizes. The instant thought a person gets after experiencing a chest pain is a heart attack or a heart problem. But that need not always be the case as chest pain can also occur due to rib fracture, lung inflammation, infection etc. Whatever the cause, chest pain should always be taken seriously and immediate medical consultation should be sought.

In this article we will be discussing about stabbing chest pain and its causes. Stabbing or sharp chest pain is felt as if a knife or a needle is piercing the skin. Well the thing of relief in cases of stabbing chest pain is, it is often not a result of heart blockages; especially if the pain worsens with breathing or movement, then it is unlikely that it is an indication of coronary heart disease. If heart blockages are the cause of stabbing chest pain then the pain does not worsen with pressing on the chest or movement. Chest pain which worsens or gets better with a change in movement or position is most commonly an indication that the problem is with the muscles, ribs, lungs or cartilage.

Signs that a heart blockage is not the cause of stabbing chest pain:

  • Stabbing chest pain, which is extremely short in duration (few seconds).
  • Chest pain that is stabbing in nature and worsens upon taking a breath.
  • Chest pain which worsen upon pressing on the chest
  • Stabbing pain in the chest which worsens upon any movement.

Stabbing Chest Pain: What can Cause Stabbing Pain in Chest?

  • Stabbing Pain in Chest Caused due to Lung Infections: Lung infections, such as pneumonia also can cause stabbing chest pain, which worsens upon deep breathing, movement or coughing. Other symptoms of pneumonia include fever, chills, shortness of breath, headache and cough.
  • Stabbing Pain in Chest Caused due to Strain: Strained muscle can also cause sharp and stabbing type of chest pain. Many a times, straining of the muscles present around the chest can occur due to exercise or some other unnatural movements. This results in sharp stabbing pain in the chest region, whereupon some individuals get concerned, mistakenly taking it for a more serious problem. In many patients, rest will provide relief from this stabbing chest pain.
  • Stabbing Pain in Chest Caused due to Fracture: A broken or a fractured rib is also a common cause of stabbing chest pain. When there is a break or fracture in the rib, it can lead to quite sharp intensity of chest pain. In some cases, the fractured rib can poke into the region of diaphragm and into the lungs. This can result in more serious problems and a great amount of pain for the patient.
  • Pleurisy as a Cause for Stabbing Chest Pain: Pleurisy is also another cause which can lead to stabbing chest pain. In pleurisy, there is swelling in the lining (pleura) surrounding the chest. Viral infections are the cause in most cases for this condition and with treatment this pain can be alleviated. However, pleurisy can cause painful, stabbing chest pain.
  • Stabbing Chest Pain Caused due to Gas: Flatulence or gas can also cause extremely painful, stabbing chest pain. However, this is not a serious condition. Many individuals mistakenly think that they are having a heart attack when they get chest pain from gases. Medications for gases can relieve the pain in no time.
  • Stabbing Pain in Chest Caused due to CAD: Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) can also cause chest pain which can be stabbing in nature. In coronary artery disease there is accumulation of plaque in the arteries. This leads to chest pain and other serious complications like heart attack.
  • A Heart Attack is also one of the Most Common Causes of Stabbing Chest Pain: Heart attack occurs when the blood flow stops to the heart for some reason, such as a blockage. When heart attack occurs, patient has extremely severe pain on the left side of the chest which radiates to the left arm.
  • Precordial Catch Syndrome (PCS) or Texidor’s Twinge is also a Common Cause of Sudden Stabbing Chest Pain in Both Adults as well as Children: The stabbing pain is predominantly felt below the left nipple where the heart is located. The chest pain aggravates when the patient inhales or exhales. The pain of Precordial Catch Syndrome is easily mistaken for a heart attack as it is felt in the area where heart is situated, however, this pain is not related to any heart condition. The pain of PCS is limited to a specific location and does not radiate to other parts of the body like a heart attack pain usually does. An episode of PCS pain can last from 30 seconds to three minutes.
  • Costochondritis can Cause Stabbing Chest Pain Which is Felt Anterior in the Chest: Costochondritis is a condition where there is inflammation of the costochondral or the costoclavicular or costosternal joints. The pain of costochondritis is usually sharp and stabbing in nature and gets aggravated upon exertion, movement and deep breathing. Applying pressure over the affected region also produces sharp pain. Pain is commonly felt near the sternum at the level of the 4th, 5th and 6th ribs.
  • Pulmonary embolism (PE) also can cause sharp stabbing chest pain where the patient feels as if he/she is not able to breathe deeply. The degree of breathlessness depends on the position and the size of the pulmonary embolism. Other symptoms of PE include mild fever, hemoptysis, tachycardia, dizziness and low blood pressure.
  • Pneumothorax also Causes Sudden, Sharp, Stabbing Chest Pain on one Side: The pain commonly worsens with inhaling and the patient can become breathless. The degree of breathlessness depends on the size of the pneumothorax.
  • Stabbing Chest Pain due to Anxiety: Anxiety can also cause chest pain in some patients. The pain can be sometimes so intense that it can be mistaken for angina. Taking deep breaths, meditating and taking medicines to relieve anxiety helps in resolution of the pain.

Investigations for Stabbing Chest Pain

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG).
  • Chest x-ray.
  • Blood tests.
  • Myocardial perfusion scintigraphy.
  • Angiogram.
  • Isotope scan and CTPA scan.
  • Computerized tomography (CT scan).
  • Stress test.
  • Endoscopy.

Treatment for Stabbing Chest Pain

As there are different causes for stabbing chest pain, treatment will depend on the cause. Various tests are carried out on the patient to determine the cause of stabbing chest pain and after the diagnosis is confirmed, patient is treated accordingly. Depending on the cause, treatment for stabbing chest pain can comprise of medications or surgery.

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:January 24, 2019

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