Sharp intermittent shooting pains in the chest are commonplace and can often cause you to double up in pain for seemingly no reason. They only last a couple of seconds and you’re fine before and immediately after, but in the instant they strike it’s an intense amount of pain. Most of us continue through our daily lives ignoring these which occur about once a week to once a month, as any online search will instantly alert you that you’re probably suffering a heart attack (which we know isn’t the case). So what are the causes of sharp pain in the chest?
Well you’ll be pleased to know to begin with that the causes of sharp chest pain – particularly those in the left side of the chest by the heart – are hardly ever related to problems with the heart itself. This may be surprising but the reason is that the nerves connected to the heart are situated in the centre of the chest. Additionally, heart pain creates a full squeezing sensation rather than a short and sharp burst of pain. However if the pain continues, or you notice any tingling in your arm you should still go and see a doctor to be on the safe side (I’ve pretty much got to say that…).
What are the cases of sharp pain chest-wards then? Well if it’s not the heart it must be one of the other items in this region such as the ribs or the muscles between the ribs (AKA the intercostals ) and pain here is known as intercostals myalgia… now there’s a mouthful! If this is what you’re suffering from however fear not – as it’s far more a nuisance than a serious condition.
Often the cause of intercostals myalgia is a viral infection of the muscles, other times it might be from a strain, repetitive activity, muscle spasm or even cramp – and the nature and duration of the pain should help you determine which of these is responsible. If you work out or train in athletics then chances are you’re putting stress on your intercostals and you aren’t even aware. If you ignore it however this pain will normally dissipate on its own. However, anti inflammatory medicine can help make this pain go away if it persists.
Alternatively the pain could be caused by a trapped or damaged nerve, particularly if it continues. Again the best medicine for this is rest and time, but painkillers such as paracetamol will help until it goes away. Finally it could be an inflammation of the joint between the rib and breastbone which is called ‘costo-chondritis’ and is also caused by stress and heavy loading. So those are the causes of sharp pain in the chest, and though it’s unpleasant, if it’s short and sharp and to one side of the chest you can rest assured it’s most likely not anything sinister. Mystery solved!