Chest Heaviness

A heavy chest is of course a cause for concern for many people. A heart attack is described as having the symptoms of ‘heavy pressure’ on the chest that feels like it is restricting breathing and of pain in the shoulder and shortness of breath. As chest heaviness is one of the primary symptoms, then this is of course a cause of alarm.

While you are not necessarily suffering from a heart attack if you experience chest heaviness it is however always pertinent to be on the safe side and to assume the worst. Call the emergency services and even if it turns out to have been a waste of time it’s better than not calling them and finding out it was a heart attack. Here’s what to look out for with a heart attack:

Heart Attack Symptoms

When suffering a heart attack you will tend to feel tightness in your chest and constriction. There will not necessarily be pain but there may well be. If you do suffer pain then it will be in the center of the chest – as the nerve connected to the heart is located centrally. At the same time you might feel pain or tingling in the arm, shoulder, back or jaw. You are likely to feel shortness of breath, nausea, anxiety, coughing, wheezing and possible vomiting. The severity of the symptoms will vary greatly from person to person and in some cases a ‘silent’ heart attack can occur without the patient even being aware it has happened (only examinations of the tissue reveal this subsequently). This is partly why it is so crucial that you play it safe and get all suspected cases of heart attack checked out.

Of course however chest heaviness does not necessarily mean that you are suffering from a heart attack and there are many other causes that could be contributing to the feeling of a heavy chest. Here we will look at some of the various causes of chest heaviness and what might be causing them.

Panic Attack

Panic attacks are often described as feeling very much like a heart attack and are very commonly confused with them. In a panic attack you will feel tightness in the chest and often patients describe the feeling as being like dying. Other symptoms will be sweating, hyperactivity and restlessness, a rapid heart beat, shaking and of course anxiety. Part of the problem with panic attacks is that they can be misinterpreted for more serious conditions and that then causes the individual to get more worked up and to exacerbate the problem. Once you have identified the problem you can used self talk in order to calm yourself rather than trigger the release of more adrenaline. Panic attacks are most common at night and during times of stress.


Angina is a kind of chest pain that can feel like a heaviness or tightness. It is a symptom rather than a condition and it has many causes which include heart attack but also high blood pressure, arterial plaque, spasm of the esophagus, inflammation of the chest wall and more. In arterial plaque, fatty deposits have collected around the inside of the veins and arteries and thus restricted blood flow forcing the heart to have to work harder and causing pain.


GERD stands for ‘Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease’ and this is commonly referred to as acid reflux or heart burn. Here food and stomach acid makes its way back up the esophagus through the esophageal sphincter and can then get stuck on the way up. When this is around the level of the heart this can feel like it’s the heart that is causing the problem and this is a common cause for chest pain which can sometimes feel tight and heavy and like having something lodged in your chest. There are many causes of GERD and these include eating too fast, or engaging in activities after finishing. If it is a constant problem then you will be recommended to use a ‘GERD’ diet designed to prevent indigestion.

Aortic Aneurism

Aortic aneurism is a dilation (bulge) of part of the aortic wall, usually a weak spot. This is the primary artery that takes blood from the heart. This can cause chronic chest pain and tightness and it should be treated seriously as in some cases it can lead to a rupture which can result in life-threatening internal beading.


In asthma it becomes more difficult to breath during an attack and this can be interpreted as not enough air getting into the chest (even though the problem is not the lungs) and a ‘tightening’ or heaviness. Many people suffering an asthma attack will complain of tightness in the chest, but the most pronounced symptom will be difficulty breathing. Other causes of shortness of breath can have a similar effect such as extreme anemia, prolonged physical activity, pneumonia etc.


Bruising and fracture of the rib cage can cause a chest tightness as can muscles soreness due to pulled or trapped muscles. If you have engaged in heavy activity then this will likely often be identifiable as the cause, as will any trauma received.

Comments 15
  1. As a child I use to hang from the monkey bars by my arms and just be suspended like that — but it feels like I have a rock setting on my heart weighting it down. Not as much air as usual. Makes for a little weaker than normal feeling.

  2. Thanks for the article. I was looking for some information on chest heaviness since I have been feeling like this for a couple of days already. I am kind of reluctant about going to have myself checked with a doctor because I might just be imagining this or I am just really stressed with work, family, etc. and I need to take a breather. I don't know if this is serious or anything. Need some sort of a push to help me decide if I should be concerned.

  3. This article was very helpful because for the past hour I've been feeling pain of heaviness in my chest almost like the feeling of wanting to crack a bone in the middle. My mouth gotten very watery at one point almost swear I felt nauseated. My mother gave me what she has for Gerd, because I thought it may have been heartburn but it has been an hour and it has not worked. The pains come like every 15 minutes but now it's about every 20 to 25. I think I'm going to go to the emergency room just because I'm in fear I have not gotten any tingling in the arm, no sweating anything like that however I do know what anxiety attack is because I have suffered from them before but this is a totally different feeling. Thank you!

  4. I appreciated that this was to the point and also have additional reasons why this could occur other than something serious. Yet a message not to mess around. I think Gerd hit's on the head for me but I will be speaking with my doc about it.

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