Shooting pains under left breast can be a frightening experience, but there are many reasons why this happens. When you first get this pain, its intensity and location may suggest a heart attack, but this is unlikely to be the case because discomfort in the center of the chest usually suggest heart attack. To understand what’s behind the pain, you need to see a doctor, but here are some possible causes.
What Causes Sharp Pain Under Left Breast?
1. Rib Injuries or Muscle Pains
Pain around the rib cage may be due to overstretching the chest muscles or blunt-force trauma to the chest, causing inflammation of the intercostal muscles between the ribs. Rib and sternum damage following crush-type injuries can also lead to chest pain.
Located underneath the breasts are chest muscles, which may spasm during stress or anxiety. This may give you chest pain on the left or right-hand side, which could last anywhere between a few seconds and a few days. Sprained chest muscles may also lead to aches and pains.
Pericarditis is the irritation and swelling of the pericardium, which is the thin sac-like membrane surrounding your heart. Pericarditis can be either acute, typically less than a few weeks’ duration, or chronic, which lasts longer. Symptoms include:
- Sharp pain on the left or center of the chest
- Heart palpitations
- General weakness, weariness or nausea
- Swelling in the abdomen or leg
- Shortness of breath
Patients with acute pericarditis may find that the chest pain travels into the left shoulder and neck, and may worsen on inhalation, coughing or lying down.
In the majority of mild pericarditis cases, doctors will advise over-the-counter painkillers and plenty of rest. You’ll need to take it easy until you’re completely recovered, as strenuous activity can make your symptoms worse.
3. Precordial Catch Syndrome (PCS)
PCS is characterized by intense pain, usually on the left side of the chest, which becomes worse during inhalation. The pain usually lasts a few seconds but can last up to half an hour. Patients often describe a ‘bubble’ sensation that is relieved when the bubble ‘pops’. The frequency of PCS can vary widely, from several times daily to once every few years. Unfortunately, there is currently no known treatment.
If the abdominal muscles cannot control gastric movement, stomach acid can spurt up into the lower esophagus, causing the shooting pains under left breast known as heartburn. Bending over or lying down after eating can provoke these symptoms.
5. Excess Digestive Gas
Gases trapped in the stomach can suddenly shoot up into the esophagus towards the chest region, resulting in a sharp, shooting pain.
Surplus digestive gas, due to talking whilst eating, fizzy drink consumption, or not chewing food properly, can cause upper left abdominal pain. Air gets caught in the colon, and the resulting pain may travel to the chest.
6. Problems with the Chest Wall
Injuries to the chest may cause sharp pain under left breast. If you have these symptoms, speak to a healthcare professional to identify whether the pain is due to an injury or an internal problem.
Cysts may appear on the chest, resulting in sporadic sharp pains. If this is not treated, these aches may happen more often, so it is worth getting advice from your doctor.
Inflammation of the costal cartilage, which joins the ribs to the sternum, is termed costochondritis. This could be a result of infection or trauma. The resultant chest pain usually increases upon coughing, sneezing, or deep inhalation.
9. Hiatal Hernia
The protrusion of part of the stomach through the esophageal opening in the diaphragm into the chest cavity is termed hiatal hernia. Common symptoms include heartburn, chest pain, bloating after eating, and shortness of breath.
10. Cardiac Conditions
One of the most common cardiac symptoms is a tightening feeling in the chest, known as angina, which develops due to insufficient cardiac oxygen supply. Pain commonly occurs under the sternum, but could radiate to the neck, shoulder, jaw, or back.
Inflammation of the lining of the stomach, gastritis, may occur because of infections from contaminated food or water. The stomach is found in the upper left abdomen, so gastritis may cause pain in this area, along with bloating, nausea, vomiting and indigestion.
12. Lung Issues
The pleura are the membranous fluid-filled linings of the lungs, which allow smooth movement during breathing. Infection, trauma and chemical exposure can cause pleural inflammation, and the pain may radiate from the lung to the area beneath the left breast.
Notes and Precautions
Pain or discomfort in the breast area, whether it be an ache, a twinge, or a sharp stabbing pain, is usually a cause for concern. Record where, when, and how often you feel the pain, then speak to your doctor, being as precise as you can. Emphasize that the pain is different from any previous symptoms, e.g. sore breasts before menstruation.
What to Do About Sharp Pain Under Left Breast
As you can see, sharp pain below left breast in the chest area has many possible origins, including digestive and cardiac issues. Although it’s daunting, you need to see a doctor as soon as possible, so the problem does not worsen. Once you have been diagnosed, you may wish to consider the following remedies, depending on the cause of the problem:
- Changing your diet may help to relieve symptoms from digestive problems. Reducing portion sizes may also help, as large meals can slow digestion. Caffeine and salt can exacerbate breast pain, so try to cut these out of your diet.
- Certain drugs can be used to treat cardiac and gastrointestinal causes of sharp pain below left breast. Over-the-counter medications, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and aspirin, can also help.
- Hot or cold packs, or vitamin E cream may also relieve your pain.
- If you have cysts on your chest cavity, surgery may be necessary. The cysts may be malignant or benign, but your doctor can advise you on the best route to take.
- If you suspect infection or inflammation of your breasts, your doctor can prescribe antibiotics or other medicines.
- Pain may arise due to stress and a hectic lifestyle. Take regular relaxing breaks, and you will see the health benefits.