Chest Pain That Comes and Goes: Causes, Symptoms and How to Treat

An individual usually seek for medical assistance from physicians when experiencing pain in any part of the body. But it is even more disturbing when chest pain occurs. There are different characteristics of chest pain, depending on the cause. What’s worse, the pain may come and go which makes someone more anxious and uncomfortable. Some people even consider having a serious health problem because recurring chest pain could be a problem of anything – heart, lungs, etc. Though many people perceive this kind of pain is always related to the heart, it actually isn’t. There are different kinds of diseases or health conditions in which chest pain is one of the symptoms. That’s why it is necessary to describe the pain an individual is experiencing. Furthermore, other signs of illnesses must also be considered so it would be easy to identify the actual problem.

What are causes of Chest Pain That Comes and Goes?

Several causes of pain in chest that comes and goes are the following:

  1. Angina

When the heart gets low blood supply, it simply isn’t receiving sufficient oxygen. Then, chest pain may arise, especially when precipitated by heavy work activity or emotional stress. This condition is called angina, and it comes in two forms – stable and unstable angina. Stable angina, which is the most frequent form, usually takes place if heavy physical work is done, like hiking uphill or running. The pain persists for a couple of minutes and frequently disappears if the person takes a rest. Unstable angina may happen even while resting and gradually becomes worse. Unlike, stable angina, it may persist for up to 30 minutes, accompanied by extreme pain in the middle of the chest.

  1. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or heart burn

Sharp chest pain triggered by GERD may somewhat inferred as a heart attack. It is actually caused by the gastric acid (from the stomach) flows back into the esophagus. Gastric acid contains various components that may irritate the food tube causing it to have a burning sensation, often felt in the center of the chest behind the breastbone. The pain does not radiate to the left arm but may be felt in the upper part of the chest and to the throat due to esophageal spasm.. However, unlike angina, chest pain brought by GERD does not decrease when resting. Thus, it may worsen when coughing or deep breathing. A person may also experience, difficulty swallowing, and sour taste in the mouth due to the back flow of stomach acid.

  1. Pleuritis

Pleura are the membranes that cover the lungs. When these linings become inflamed and this condition is called pleuritis (or pleurisy). Chest pain (or pressure in the chest) may also occur and gets worse when deep breathing.

  1. Costochondritis

Cartilages are connective tissues that connect certain parts of the body. Ribs and sternum are joined together with the help of these tissues. But in costochondritis, these cartilages are inflamed due to viral infection, subsequently causing chest pain all over the breastbone.

  1. Pulmonary embolism

Pulmonary embolism happens when blood clots which abruptly obstruct lung arteries. Chest pain is also one of its symptoms and goes along with shortness of breath and cough.

What are Symptoms?

Different diseases can induce chest pain, but other symptoms are still associated with the chest pain that comes and goes. And it is very important to identify whether the pain an individual is experiencing is a cardiac chest pain or a non-cardiac chest pain. Here are some of the characteristics of cardiac and non-cardiac pain in chest:

Cardiac Vs. Non-cardiac

  1. A person experiencing the former pain may suffer from a deep pain (like a tightening or squeezing sensation on the left side) which radiates to the throat, jaw, arms and back. While the non-cardiac one brings sharp pain, but not deep (more likely closed to the surface), making it easy to locate.
  2. The former pain is associated with various symptoms such as dizziness, shortness of breath, numbness of the left arm or shoulder, lightheadedness, sweating, and nausea. The latter may be accompanied by signs of various illnesses. For instance, for GERD, a burning sensation in the stomach, chest, and up to the throat can be felt.
  3. The former commonly takes place after a physical exertion like lifting heavy things particularly, in which the upper arm are also moved. The latter just occurs at random times, depending on the cause.
  4. The former may last provided that the heavy work activity is being done. Afterwards, the pain is rapidly decreases as the exertion is stopped. Meanwhile, the latter pain just come and goes instantly.
  5. The former is usually experienced in the morning while the latter is normally felt at the end of the day.
  6. The former may continue to hurt in spite of changing the person’s position. Proper position and applying muscle pressure to the person may somehow ease the non-cardiac pain
  7. A person with the former pain may feel relieved when placed in a sitting position. Pain is aggravated if the person is lying down. Over the counter meds such as antacids, acetaminophen, etc. may help alleviate non-cardiac pain.

How to treat & Home remedies?

A patient’s medical history is one of the keys to help a health care provider in figuring out the underlying cause of a chest pain. Physicians generally advise their patients to perform the following as part of the diagnosis:

  1. Electrocardiogram (ECG): a non-invasive procedure in which the heart’s electrical activity is recorded.
  2. Exercise Stress test: also known as exercise ECG, the patient is instructed to walk on a treadmill or perhaps ride a stationary bike. At the same time, vital signs like blood pressure, breathing, and heart rate. It basically tests if the patient’s heart can carry out certain levels of physical activities. By then, the physician can identify the proper physical work you can do.
  3. Cardiac blood test: if the patient does not have any history of GERD, the doctor may order a cardiac blood test to for heart diseases. There are various blood components that serve as indicators of cardiovascular diseases.

For chest pain treatment, underlying causes are considered before prescribing medications. For non-cardiac chest pain caused by GERD, antacids and proton pump inhibitors are mostly given to the patient. If the cause of the chest pain is angina, the patient may receive some medications which can improve the disease’s symptoms, such as Aspirin, beta blockers, nitrates, calcium channel blockers, statins, angiotensin-converting enzymes (ACE) inhibitors. But take note that these meds should be taken if ordered or prescribed by a physician.


It is very essential for the health care providers to identify other symptoms which come along with their chest pains. With proper assessment, it would be easy to recognize the precise treatment or remedy for a certain health condition.