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Atypical Chest Pain – Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

Written by Dr.Mary

What is Atypical Chest Pain?

This term “Atypical Chest Pain” represents any complaint where an individual does not have the classic indications of angina. These atypical symptoms might be caused by cardiac difficulties as well as problems which are non-cardiac.

In medical terms, the sensation of squeezing or pressure in the chest that is normally felt upon exertion is usually discussed as angina that is stable. Angina is the more common symptom of disease of the coronary artery which is a condition of the heart categorized by a supply of oxygenated blood that is reduced to the heart. If pain does not have the signs of angina that is typical, the individual is said to then be experiencing atypical pain in the chest. Typical chest pain, which is triggered by physical exertion and is, felt beneath the breastbone, differs from atypical chest pain which might not be felt under the sternum but may radiate to other areas. It is commonly believed that men are more prone to experience chest pain that is typical during a heart attack than women. In cases of a heart attack that is typical, pain in the chest is experienced in the left side of the chest and normally radiates thru the left arm, shoulder, back and jaw. When the pain radiates to other areas and different symptoms are experienced, one is represented as having chest pain that is atypical.

Symptoms of Atypical Chest Pain

Atypical or non-cardiac chest pains usually present as follows:

  • Pain that is pleuritic, pricking, sharp, knife like, pulsating or choking
  • Involves chest wall; tender to touch, is positional, appears to be inflammatory
  • Onset that is random
  • Lasts longer or shorter than 3 to 15 minutes
  • Response to nitroglycerin varies
  • Similar to pain seen in musculoskeletal, respiratory or gastrointestinal disorders
  • Fatigue
  • Sweating
  • Lightheadedness
  • Breathing problems

Atypical Chest Pain Causes

Atypical chest pains can be musculoskeletal or psychogenic in nature. Listed below are some of the non-cardiac causes of chest pain that is atypical in men and women:


This is one of the more common causes of non-cardiac chest pain. Pains in the chest, labored or painful breathing are symptoms of costochondritis. This is a condition that is linked with costal cartilages inflammation. This is the cartilage that joins the end of the ribs to the sternum. Inflammation in this area might be due to respiratory infections, strain of repetitive injuries or trauma that is blunt to the chest. Intercostal strains are quite common in individuals who are involved in sports where arms are swinging.



This is the main cause of many problems with health. Stress or anxiety may also lead to pains in the chest. Chest pressure, sweating that is profuse, or feeling dizzy are several symptoms that an individual might have when suffering from an attack of panic. Tightness in the chest or pain experienced during phases of anxiety occur because the muscles in the wall of the chest contract.

Acid Reflux Disease

This is a medical problem that is categorized by the reflux or backflow of acid or gastric contents from the stomach thru the esophagus. The reflux of gastric contents is normally caused by the esophageal sphincter muscle that is weak. When contents are pushed towards the esophagus, it leads to a sensation of burning in the chest. This sensation is medically known as heartburn.

Lung Conditions

Chest pain that is atypical can also be due to lung problems. Pneumothorax, pneumonia, pulmonary embolism, bronchitis and pleurisy are just a few of the conditions of the upper respiratory system that can lead to chest pains in the wall.

Atypical Chest Pain Treatment

If an individual has recurring spells of chest pain, a complete medical exam needs to be done so as to determine the underlying cause of pains in the chest. The duration, intensity and other symptoms of chest pain may help in determining if the pain in the chest is atypical or typical. When the symptoms are atypical, and the pain in the chest is caused by non-cardiac disorders, the treatment depends on the condition that is underlying. Painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs are prescribed for costochondritis; use of antacids might be advised for heartburn. Techniques of relaxation together with drug therapy are normally beneficial for anyone suffering from attacks of panic or anxiety. If imaging or diagnostic test shows blockage in arteries and the individual is diagnosed with pericarditis, coronary artery disease, aortic dissection, or heart valve problems, the management will normally consist of drug therapy.

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