What Does Right Sided Chest Pain Indicate

It is quite natural to get alarmed at the thought of chest pain. But although the pain is felt in the chest area, the problem may not always be within the chest. While there are many causes of chest pain due to heart and lung diseases, pain in chest may often arise from muscles, nerves, ribs or digestive system.

What Does Right Sided Chest Pain Indicate

Pain in the right side of the chest may be felt in the area between the neck and the upper abdomen. There may be associated symptoms like difficulty in swallowing, burning sensation in the throat, feeling of tightness or squeezing, difficulty in breathing or sometimes cough. In some cases, chest pain may be constant while in some, chest pain comes and goes.

Chest pain in right side may be noted with pain in right side of abdomen, pain under the breastbone, shoulder pain or chest pain radiating to back. Right sided chest pain may be experienced when changing position, after exertion, on breathing or sometimes when lying down.

Some of the common causes of right sided chest pain are:

Gastrointestinal Causes Of Right Sided Chest Pain

Gastrointestinal factors that can cause pain in right side of the chest include

  • Reflux Disease and Peptic Ulcers – Reflux disease, which is referred to a condition in which the food or stomach contents get regurgitated into the food pipe, can cause pain on right side of the chest or under the breastbone. It may be associated with burning sensation, acidic taste in mouth and is often related to intake of particular food, empty stomach or other factors causing hyperacidity. Right sided chest pain is also common in peptic ulcers, when similar symptoms may be experienced along with ulcer pain in the right part of abdomen.
  • Gall Bladder Diseases – Gallbladder is located on the right side below the liver and its pain is often felt under the ribs. Cholecystitis (inflammation of gallbladder) and cholelithiasis (gall stones) are common problems causing severe pain in right upper quadrant of the abdomen. Gallbladder pain may be typically felt after consuming fatty food along with nausea, abdominal bloating and even vomiting. Chest pain can be felt in right upper part of abdomen and may extend to back, right shoulder and sometimes the shoulder tip.
  • Liver Disorders – Common liver disorders like hepatitis (inflammation of liver), hepatomegaly (enlargement of liver), liver cirrhosis, fatty liver or liver damage caused due to certain infections, toxins, drugs and alcohol can lead to pain in the right side of the chest. The pain may be arising in the right upper part of the abdomen and is felt as sharp pain under right ribs; mostly associated with gastric complaints.
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disorder – Bowel obstruction, gut inflammation as seen in Crohn's Disease, may be noticed after consuming certain foods or change in routine. Complaints commonly include abdominal pain, chest pain under the right ribs along with indigestion, vomiting and changed bowel movements.
  • Other Causes of Pain on the Right Side of the Chest - Gastric infections like typhoid and conditions like appendicitis, pancreatitis, tumors or injuries can cause abdominal pain. The pain may sometimes extend to the upper part of abdomen and may be felt as right sided chest pain. Hernia occurring in the upper part of the abdomen can cause discomfort and may be experienced as pain in the right side of chest.

Cardiovascular Causes Of Right Sided Chest Pain

Chest pain can occur due to

  • Cardiac causes that involve blocking of blood flow to the heart. Common conditions include angina, atherosclerosis, heart attack or myocardial infarction. Chest pain on right side may be accompanied with sweating, nausea, breathlessness and chest tightness.
  • Coronary artery dissection is tearing of the artery causing severe chest pain.
  • Other conditions of the heart too can sometimes cause right sided chest pain.

Pulmonary Causes Of Right Sided Chest Pain

  • Lung conditions causing right sided chest pain include infections, inflammation due to pneumonia, pleurisy (inflammation of lung lining), which may also present with cough, fever and expectoration.
  • Asthma, pneumothorax or lung collapse, pulmonary hypertension, pulmonary embolism are some other lung disorders that can cause pain in right side of the chest. These generally show cough, shortness of breath and chest pain, which may be worse on breathing, exertion and lying down.

Musculoskeletal Causes Of Right Sided Chest Pain

Some causes of right sided chest pain include disorders of the musculoskeletal system like

  • Injuries Or Fractured Ribs – Injuries of certain activities can cause rib fracture or bruising. Injury to the muscle, muscle strain or spasm, can cause pain on the right side of chest. Pain may worsen on movement and exertion.
  • Costochondritis – Trauma or certain infections can cause inflammation of the rib cartilage, which can cause chest pain and tenderness. Pain on right side of chest may be felt on breathing and can worsen on exertion.

Other Causes Of Right Sided Chest Pain

These include other reasons like injuries in the right side of chest or upper abdominal area, nerve damage, disorders of bone, muscle or tissue causing inflammation, osteoporosis due to vitamin D deficiency, dietary factors and consumption of particular food items. Shingles, a viral infection can cause sharp pain in the right side of the chest.

Right sided chest pain in pregnancy is commonly experienced by some pregnant ladies. In pregnancy, apart from the common reasons, various factors like indigestion, bloating, heartburn, pressure of the growing uterus and breast changes usually contribute to right sided chest pain.

Diagnosis And Treatment Of Right Sided Chest Pain

As the causes of right sided chest pain are many, proper clinical examination is necessary to find the probable causes. Appropriate investigations like blood tests and imaging studies are carried out depending on the symptoms and suspected cause.

Treatment depends on the underlying cause and diagnosis. Medications, medical advice about rest, activity and specific care should be followed properly. It is important to know that severe chest pain or when associated with shortness of breath, fever, vomiting, extreme fatigue, pain and numbness in arms or dizziness may need immediate medical attention.

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Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: March 16, 2015

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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