Everyone worries that chest pain is related to the heart and they could be experiencing a heart attack, or myocardial infarction. But what about causes of chest pain not related to heart disease or a heart attack? Noncardiac chest pain (NCCP) is the term used to describe pain in the chest that is not caused by heart disease or a heart attack. Many individuals describe squeezing or burning chest pain, which may radiate to the back, neck, arms, or jaw. It is estimated that approximately 25-percent of the US population has experienced an episode of NCCP. Ten causes of chest pain that are not your heart include…
1. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or acid reflux, is the most common cause of NCCP. It accounts for 22 to 66-percent of NCCP. The condition is characterized by the back flow, or reflux, of the stomach contents into the esophagus. An imaging study called a barium swallow can be used to diagnose GERD. A barium swallow is an X-ray examination used to visualize the esophagus, the tube connecting the throat and stomach.
Treatment of GERD requires a stepwise approach involving lifestyle modification and control of gastric acid secretion. Lifestyle modifications may include weight loss, avoiding large meals, waiting at least three hours after a meal before lying down, and elevating the head of the bed by eight inches or more. Avoidance of alcohol, peppermint, caffeine, chocolate, citrus juice, and tomato-based foods are also recommended. Depending on severity, drug therapy for GERD may include antacids, H2 blockers, and proton pump inhibitors to lower gastric acid levels.