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Forum Name: Cardiology Symptoms

Question: Consistent Cramps on Left Side of Chest


 NewtoDC - Sat Sep 20, 2008 1:25 pm

For the last two months, approximately, I have been experiencing consistent cramps on the left side of my chest. The cramps produce a sharp pain that occurs toward the center of the chest, and can span out toward my left shoulder. I am a 35 year old male, 5 ft 7, 165 lbs, a light smoker (3-4 ultralight cigarettes daily), and a social drinker on the weekends. I am not on any medication, have been tested with normal to slightly elevated blood pressure twice in the last year, and although I was diagnosed with childhood asthma, it has not bothered me in well over a decade.

Here's the curious part: the cramp in my chest occurs consistently when I walk, especially in the heat. Within twenty minutes of walking, a sharp chest pain appears that forces me to stop. If I relax for a few minutes, it goes away and I can continue walking. However, inevitabley, the cramp will reappear. This perplexes me because I often ride a stationary bike for up to 45 minutes a session, usually three times a week, in a rigorous manner, and the cramp has never occurred while riding. However, even a leisurely walk now will almost certainly produce it. Sadly, I have given up walking to and from my office because of this problem. As you can imagine, I am very frustrated. I am in decent shape, I eat well, and yet I can hardly walk anymore before I cramp up.

I did have one panick attack approximately three months ago. A doctor performed an EKG and told me my heart was fine. A blood oxygen test was also administered, and the results were 'stellar'. I have been under some stress this summer that is related to my work and a move to a new city, but I am beginning to feel like things are under control. What's the problem and how can I stop the cramping??
 John Kenyon, CNA - Thu Oct 02, 2008 8:34 pm

User avatar Hi there -

While it certainly seems your chest discomfort is non-cardiac (based on your normal resting EKG, ability to tolerate high-intensity exercise on a stationary bike, plus your age and body mass index or BMI), something is going on. It is not unusual for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) in particular, to manifest as chest pain or discomfort during exercise. This is also often associated with asthma, and is even sometimes the cause of asthma.

The pain is described as "sharp", and is located on the left side. Cardiac pain is almost never described as sharp and is rarely localized on the left side. It definitely doesn't sound like cardiac pain given all the facts as presented. This is a good thing.

Even if not caused by GERD, there are other gastrointestinal causes of this sort of pain. There is no guarantee this is the locus of the problem, but it is one area that needs to be looked at closely. It could also be a muscular-metabolic problem, such as the classic "stitch in the side" phenomenon, which often happens when running or walking, and involves the up-and-down movement of certain internal organs while walking or running, which produce referred pain up through the nerves of the diaphragm.

I hope this is helpful. Best of luck to you.
 Arthur - Sat Nov 08, 2008 8:40 pm

Hi, I have been experienced a pain in left side of my chest down breast when taking a deep breath, this is the only way i feel the pain just when breathing hard. i have been having this pain for the past two weeks and i would like to know what it is or the cause of it. could you please help me?
 John Kenyon, CNA - Sun Nov 09, 2008 10:48 am

User avatar Hi Arthur -

This sort of pain, which can be duplicated by using the chest wall structure and muscles, is not cardiac in nature, but is usually one of three benign but annoying things: either a muscle pull (on the inside or outside of the chest wall), inflamed cartilage between the ribs (Tietz' syndrome), or pleurisy, an irritation of the membrane that lines the inside of the chest and surrounds the lungs to allow them smooth movement as they inflate and deflate. All three will usually, unless quite severe, respond to over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain meds such as ibuprofin (Advil, Motrin) or naproxyn (Aleve). If one of these doesn't relieve the pain, at least during the time the drug is on-board, then a doctor can prescribe something stronger to resolve the inflammation.

Once in a great while there can be a chest wall anomaly, such as a cracked, bruised or displaced rib (often from something as innocent as a hard sneeze), which may benefit from being taped for a while, but this would be something only a doctor could determine. Even then usually the most effective treatment is symptomatic -- something for the discomfort.

Cardiac pain doesn't manifest that way and can't be duplicated by breathing or movement.

I hope this is helpful to you. Best of luck. Please follow up with us as needed.

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