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What’s Causing Pain in the Right Side of My Chest?

Is this cause for concern?

Pain in the right side of your chest can happen for a number of reasons, but most chest discomfort isn’t related to your heart. In fact, chest pain on your right side typically isn’t the result of a heart attack.

Your chest is home to other organs and tissues that may be inflamed or injured, causing you to feel pain. Any aches you feel are most likely due to muscle strain, infection, stress or anxiety, or other conditions unrelated to your heart.

Keep reading to learn what that may be behind your symptoms and when you should see your doctor.

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Seek emergency medical care

When to seek emergency medical attention

Chest pain on the left side is typically associated with a heart attack. If you feel any pain on your right side, it’s most likely not related to your heart.

But you should still seek immediate medical attention if you:

  • have unexplained and unexpected severe chest pain
  • feel pressure, squeezing, or fullness in your chest
  • have severe pain shooting through your arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach
  • break out into a cold sweat
  • feel weak, dizzy, or nauseous
  • have difficulty breathing

Any of these symptoms could be caused by a serious or life-threatening condition, so you should seek urgent care as soon as possible.

Stress or anxiety

1. Stress or anxiety

An anxiety disorder or extreme stress can bring on panic attacks, which can feel very similar to a heart attack. Panic attacks can happen out of the blue or be triggered by a traumatic or stressful event in your life.

Symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks can include:

Panic attacks can cause chest pain because when you hyperventilate (breathing rapidly or deeply), your chest wall muscles are spasming. Pain resulting from anxiety or stress can occur on either side of the chest.

Deep breathing exercises can help stop a panic attack. Learn more about this and 10 other techniques to help stop a panic attack in its tracks.

Because symptoms of a panic attack can mimic those of a heart attack, you should seek immediate medical care in order to rule out any heart-related issues.

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Muscle strain

2. Muscle strain

Trauma or overuse can cause muscle strain, which is one of the most common causes of pain on either side of your chest.

Muscle strain can happen because of intense upper body activity during sports or overexerting your muscles while painting a ceiling, chopping wood, or some other vigorous activity. Muscle pain may also come on gradually as a result of tension or anxiety.

In most cases, taking over-the-counter pain relievers and resting are enough to ease your symptoms. Learn more about how to treat strains.

Blunt trauma to the chest

3. Blunt trauma to the chest

Chest pain can also happen because of tears to the pectoralis muscle. Tears are usually caused by indirect trauma or a direct blow to the chest. Blunt trauma can also result in rib fractures or potential rib displacement.

Symptoms of a chest injury or rib displacement include:

  • chest pain that gets worse with coughing, sneezing, or laughing
  • shortness of breath
  • bruising
  • swelling
  • tenderness

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, see your doctor. They can determine whether your injury will be able to heal on its own or if treatment is necessary.

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Indigestion or heartburn

4. Indigestion or heartburn

Heartburn refers to the burning sensation you feel in your chest after eating, bending over, working out, or even when lying down at night. It’s usually caused by acid reflux, which happens when your stomach acid comes back up to your esophagus.

In addition to chest pain, you may:

  • feel a burning sensation in your throat
  • have difficulty swallowing
  • feel like food is stuck in the middle of your throat or chest
  • have an unexplained acidic, salty, or sour taste in the back of your throat

Indigestion refers to an upset stomach. Although indigestion usually doesn’t cause chest pain, it may occur alongside heartburn.

Symptoms of indigestion include:

  • nausea
  • early and uncomfortable fullness after eating
  • pain, discomfort, and burning in the upper abdomen
  • bloating

Here’s how to relieve your heartburn symptoms.

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Acid reflux

5. Acid reflux

Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid flows back into your food pipe, or esophagus.

This can cause:

  • heartburn
  • stomach pain
  • burping
  • a sour taste in your mouth

If you’re experiencing acid reflux more than twice a week, you may have developed gastroesophageal reflux (GERD).

In addition to chest pain, symptoms of GERD include:

  • heartburn
  • sore throat or hoarseness
  • a sour taste in your mouth
  • a lump-like sensation in your throat
  • dry cough
  • difficulty swallowing

Although you may be able to find relief with home remedies, you should see your doctor for a diagnosis. They may be able to prescribe medication to help treat or prevent symptoms.

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Costochondritis

6. Costochondritis

Chest pain is one of the main symptoms of costochondritis. This condition happens when your rib cage cartilage becomes inflamed. The pain can be severe or mild. Although the pain is typically felt on the left side of your chest, it may also occur on the right side.

Other symptoms include pain in your back and abdomen and pain that worsens when you cough or take a deep breath.

Chest pain caused by costochondritis may feel similar to a heart attack or other heart-related conditions, so you should seek emergency care. Your doctor can rule out any life-threatening conditions.

Cholecystitis

7. Cholecystitis

Gallbladder inflammation (cholecystitis) happens when there’s bile buildup in your gallbladder. In most cases, cholecystitis is caused by gallstones blocking the tube that leads out of the organ. Your gallbladder may also become inflamed because of problems with your bile duct or tumors.

Cholecystitis doesn’t cause chest pain, although it may feel like it. If your gallbladder is inflamed, you may feel intense pain in your upper right abdomen that can shoot up to your right — not left — shoulder or back.

Other symptoms include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • fever
  • sweating
  • appetite loss
  • tenderness when touching your abdomen

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, see your doctor for diagnosis.

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Pancreatitis

8. Pancreatitis

Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis) happens when your digestive enzymes start working while they’re still in your pancreas. The enzymes irritate your pancreas’ cells, causing the organ to become inflamed. Pancreatitis can happen for a number of reasons, including alcoholism or gallstones.

Chest pain isn’t a symptom of pancreatitis, but you may experience pain in your upper abdomen. This pain can also radiate to your back, adding to the discomfort you feel in your chest.

Other symptoms of acute pancreatitis include:

  • pain in your abdomen that becomes worse after eating
  • fever
  • rapid pulse
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • tenderness when touching your abdomen

If pancreatitis becomes chronic, you may have oily stool and abnormal weight loss.

Shingles

9. Shingles

Shingles is an infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which also causes chickenpox.

Shingles doesn’t cause chest pain, but it may feel like you’re having problems with your heart or lungs depending on the location of the viral infection.

In addition to a rash, your symptoms may include:

  • pain
  • burning
  • tingling or numbness
  • sensitivity to touch
  • fluid-filled blisters that crack and crust over
  • itching

Although you may be able to find relief with home remedies, you should see your doctor for a diagnosis. They’ll prescribe medication to help clear the infection.

Pleurisy

10. Pleurisy

Pleurisy occurs when the membrane lining the inner side of your chest cavity, known as the pleura, becomes inflamed. This can cause pain on either side of your chest when you breathe in and out, as well as pain in your shoulders and back.

Symptoms include:

  • chest pain that gets worse with coughing, sneezing, or laughing
  • shortness of breath if you’re trying to minimize breathing in and out
  • fever or cough if the cause of the pleurisy is a lung infection

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, see your doctor for diagnosis.

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Pneumonia

11. Pneumonia

Pneumonia is an infection in one or both of your lungs. Pneumonia will make you cough, sometimes with phlegm, which can cause pain on either side of your chest. You may also feel chest pain when you breathe.

Other symptoms of pneumonia include:

  • difficulty breathing
  • fever
  • sweating
  • shaking
  • chills
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea

Although home remedies can relieve your symptoms, it’s important that you see your doctor for diagnosis and treatment. If the infection itself is left untreated, pneumonia can become fatal.

Pneumothorax

12. Pneumothorax

Sudden, sharp chest pain is the main symptom of pneumothorax, or a collapsed lung. This can happen on either the right or left side of your chest, and is usually the result of injury.

It may also result from lung disease, ruptured air blisters, or ventilator use.

Other symptoms include:

  • shortness of breath
  • feeling of tightness in the chest
  • rapid heart rate
  • cough
  • fatigue

If you suspect that you have a collapsed lung, seek emergency medical care.

Cardiac inflammation

13. Cardiac inflammation

There are two types of cardiac inflammation that can cause chest pain: myocarditis and pericarditis. Myocarditis happens when your heart muscle becomes inflamed. Pericarditis refers to inflammation in the two layers of sac-like tissue (pericardium) that surrounds your heart.

Both conditions are typically caused by a type of infection, and can lead to mild to severe chest pain.

Myocarditis and pericarditis share many of the same symptoms. These include:

  • fever
  • weakness
  • difficulty breathing
  • coughing
  • heart palpitations
  • fatigue
  • swelling of your legs, ankles, feet, or stomach

With pericarditis, the discomfort in your chest can be so intense that it feels like you’re having a heart attack. If you’re experiencing severe chest pain, seek emergency care to rule out any life-threatening causes.

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Pulmonary hypertension

14. Pulmonary hypertension

Pulmonary hypertension refers to high blood pressure in the heart-to-lung system. This can cause your heart to work harder, leading you to feel pain throughout your chest.

Other symptoms include:

  • shortness of breath during regular activity
  • feeling light-headed, especially during physical activity
  • fatigue
  • racing heartbeat
  • pain in upper right side of abdomen
  • decreased appetite
  • fainting
  • swelling in the ankles or legs
  • bluish lips or skin

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, see your doctor for diagnosis. They can prescribe medication or other therapies to help relieve your symptoms and prevent future complications.

Pulmonary embolism

15. Pulmonary embolism

A pulmonary embolism occurs when a blood clot travels from a vein in your leg to your lungs. This sudden arterial block prevents blood from flowing to your lung tissue, causing chest pain.

The pain may also spread throughout your arm, jaw, shoulder, and neck.

Pulmonary embolism can be fatal if left untreated, so seek emergency medical care if you’re experiencing these symptoms.

See your doctor

When to see your doctor

If you’re worried about the pain in the right side of your chest, and it’s lasted more than a few days, then it’s time to see your doctor. Although the aches and discomfort may be caused by something mild, like acid reflux, there’s also a chance that they’re resulting from something more serious, like pulmonary hypertension.

Once you know what’s going on, you and your doctor can develop a plan to treat your chest pain and its underlying cause. If your chest pain persists after treatment, you should see your doctor and discuss additional treatment options.

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