In most cases, chest pains instantly trigger fears of a heart attack, but they can also be symptomatic of other medical conditions. Chest pains should never be ignored. Pains in the left side of the chest are normally linked to underlying cardiac conditions and pains in the right side of the chest are indicative of serious health problems. Therefore, pain in the right side of the chest should not be disregarded, particularly in elderly individuals, because it can serve as the first clue of life threatening medical condition. According to Dr Nick Chaiyapin, a health specialist for ElderlyJournal.com, "This kind of chest pain is definitely a sign of some disease or disorder, especially in the elderly."
Based on research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), chest pain is a commonly reported symptom. Because the heart is located on the left side of the chest cavity, people typically find pain in this region to be worrisome and associate it with heart problems. Interestingly, people fail to take notice of pain on the right side of the chest, despite its relation to gallbladder inflammation, liver inflammation, and angina. Angina is chest pain that is indicative of lack of blood flow to the heart muscle. While right sided chest pain is typically not caused by cardiac factors, it is still representative of underlying health problems that may require immediate medical attention.
Causes of Pain in Right Side of Chest
The causes of pain in the right side of the chest are diverse, ranging from the effects of excess physical activity to infections and underlying medical conditions. Here will list some of the best explained causes.
- Viral Infection: Infection by the viruses that are responsible for the cold or flu has also been linked to pain on the right of the chest side. The chest pain may become more pronounced with deep breathing and coughing.
- Gastritis: Gastritis, or inflammation of the stomach lining, usually occurs after fasting or excessive alcohol consumptions and it can cause abdominal pain and pain in the right side of the chest.
- Pleural Inflammation: Inflammation of the pleural tissues that surround the lungs can cause pain in the right side of the chest, and in some cases the pain gets worse with deep breathing and coughing.
- Gallbladder Diseases: Gallbladder attacks often manifest as pain in the right side of the chest due to inflammation of the gallbladder, and this may become most noticeable after eating foods that are rich in fat. You may also experience pain if gallstones become lodged in the bile duct.
- Digestive Tract Disorders: Digestive tract disorders that involve the esophagus often lead to tightening of the chest, which can manifest as pain in the right side of the chest.
- Liver Inflammation and Hepatitis: Inflammation of the liver can cause ‘popping' in the chest, as well as pain in the right shoulder or pain in the right side of the rib cage and back. Similarly, right side chest pain may be due to hepatitis, which is a disease that causes swelling and inflammation of the liver. Your physicians will need to conduct medical tests in order to diagnose hepatitis.
- Injury: Recent injuries, such as a minor rib displacement or a neck problem, may be the underlying causes for right side chest pain.
- Pancreatic Dysfunction: Inflammation of the pancreas can lead to abdominal swelling that may radiate pain into the chest.
- Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): GERD is a chronic condition in which the contents of the stomach flows back up the esophagus. Irritation to the esophagus can manifest as chest pain.
- Thoracic Tumors: Tumors that develop within the lungs or in the surrounding areas can lead to pain on the right side of the chest.
- Side Effect of Antacid: Chronic antacid use has been linked to pain in the right side of the chest.
- Overexertion: Strenuous activities that require use of the chest muscles may lead to pain in the right side of the chest. The pain is probably related to muscle soreness and it may be worsened by particular movements.
- Stress: Stress can exacerbate digestive system disorders, which lead to pain on the right side of the chest. Some key stressors are work, school or family and relationship problems.
- Muscle Pulls: Pulls of the muscles or ligaments in the chest and injuries to the ribcage may lead to right side chest pain.
- Food Blockage: Blockage of the esophagus with food or beverages causes congestion, which can lead to pain in the right side of your chest.
Complications Associated with Pain in Right Side of Chest
As a result of the pain in the right side of the chest you may experience other symptoms. These symptoms typically resolve themselves once you relieve the chest pain and the underlying medical conditions that caused it.
- A burning sensation in the chest and under the breastbone.
- Acid reflux into the mouth.
- Difficulty swallowing.
- Painful breathing while lying down.
- Chest pains when changing body positions.
When should you see a doctor?
If your chest pain cannot be explained away by your physical activity or a known medical condition you should seek medical attention. In fact, you should call your doctor immediately if you experience sudden chest pain that you are unable to relieve using anti-inflammatory medications or other self-help remedies.
If you experience chest pain in combination with the following symptoms you should call 911 for immediate medical assistance:
- Sudden pressure, tightness, and crushing weight below your breast bone.
- Chest pain that radiates into your left arm, back, or jaws.
- After extended periods of inactivity, you experience sudden piercing chest pain that is accompanied by difficulty breathing.
- Accelerated heart rate, lightheadedness, nausea, rapid breathing, disorientation, pale skin, and excessive sweating.
- Extremely low heart rate or blood pressure.
If you experience these symptoms along with chest pain you should call your doctor:
- Chills, fever, or coughing up yellow/green tinted phlegm.
- Difficulty swallowing.
- Persistent and extreme chest pain.