Do you struggle with chest pain because of anxiety? Uncomfortable right?
In this article I’ll explain:
- How anxiety can cause chest pain
- When you should be worried
- And 5 tips to stop chest pain
Don’t ignore your chest pain, because you want to use the tips in this article.
Let’s get started!
Can anxiety cause chest pain?
Before I even knew what anxiety was, I thought that my chest pain was something dangerous. It made me worry and buy into the worst-case scenarios.
After I discovered that I struggled with anxiety, I realized that chest pain was one of the most common symptoms of anxiety. Chest pain can either be gradual or sudden.
When it is gradual chest pain, you tend to experience chest pain for longer periods of time (hours or even the entire day). This could be persistent chest aching or chest tightness. Some people also find it hard to breathe.
When the anxiety chest pain is more sudden, you can suddenly experience sharp stabbing pains, but they tend to be over sooner than the gradual chest pains.
Anxiety chest pain symptoms
As I said, it can be very scary to experience chest pain. And because you’re also feeling anxious, you’re more tempted to believe in the worst-case scenario: I suffer from something dangerous and deathly.
The chest pain you experience can even be scarier in combination with heart palpitations. Heart palpitations are heartbeats that suddenly become more noticeable (which is often a result because your anxious mind focuses intensely on your chest area).
As a matter of fact, chest pain is one of the most common symptoms of anxiety. Nevertheless, chest pain can feel different to everyone. According to Khealth, the symptoms of chest pain are:
- Sharp, shooting pains in the chest
- Tightness or pressure
- Spasms or twitching
- A burning sensation
- Persistent chest aching
Often the chest pain presents itself during a panic attack, because the body activates its fight or flight response. But you don’t have to experience a panic attack in order to feel chest pain. I personally always had (sometimes still have) chest pain during or after I got anxious.
In most cases, the chest pain is caused by anxiety, but if you are not sure, always consider talking to your doctor. If your doctor cannot find any cause for your chest pain it’s almost always anxiety that is at play.
Why does anxiety cause chest pain?
Now you are aware of the symptoms of anxiety chest pain, let’s take a look at why anxiety causes chest pain.
The first thing you have to understand is that whenever your mind believes you are in danger, it activates your fight or flight response. Most of the time you aren’t in real danger at all, but the mind cannot perceive the difference between what’s real and what’s imagined. When it activates the fight or flight response, anxiety happens.
You feel a rush of cortisol go through your body, and when it gets really intense… you get a rush of adrenaline as well. Cortisol helps you to stay alert for danger and makes you feel on edge, but adrenaline gives you a spurt of energy to fight or flight the situation.
It’s the hormone that makes people lift cars to save a loved one, during a car accident for example. It is there to help you do incredible things.
When you are anxious or in panic, you often automatically have a bad posture. Your muscles contract, because they want to compensate for all the excessive cortisol and adrenaline that rushes through your body. These hormones are supposed to give you energy and fight danger… but we often try to stay calm and therefore the energy has to go somewhere.
As a result, you hunch forward and push your shoulders and head towards your chest. This absorbs a lot of the energy but creates muscle tension. And because your heart rate increases during panic and anxiety, you might experience a lot of chest pain.
When you’re feeling anxious, this can result in chest pain… but also when you are relaxed you can feel chest pain, because your body relaxes and becomes aware of the contracted muscles.
How long does the anxiety chest pain last?
There is no indicator for how long anxiety chest pain may last. When you experience chest pain during a panic attack, the symptoms will become less after the panic attack is over and your body is returning to its normal state again. This almost always happens within 30 minutes.
But on the other hand, if you are anxious during the day, the anxiety chest pain may be present for hours. In general: the more anxious you feel, the more intense your symptoms are.
I personally struggled with chest pain a lot, and I experienced it for a few hours a day. The symptoms were a tight chest and feeling a lot of pressure on my chest area.
If you’re feeling chest pain and anxiety, it’s always important to put your response to these anxious feelings under the spotlight. To help you respond to your chest pain in the right way, make sure to download my FREE PDF to learn the same response I teach my paid clients.
Is it anxiety chest pain or a heart attack?
Even though chest pain is a very common symptom of anxiety, it’s usually best to seek medical help if you’re experiencing it. Your doctor can perform some medical tests to see if there is something wrong with your heart.
When it seems that there is nothing wrong at all, you’ll be much calmer the next time you experience chest pain.
To help you understand the difference between chest pain and a heart attack, read the following symptoms of a heart attack:
- Chest pain that worsens with exertion
- Chest pain that radiates to other parts of your body
- Rapid heart rate
- Finding it hard to breathe
- Squeezing pain in the chest
Another difference is that anxiety chest pain often happens in the midst of panic, during noticeable anxiety or when you are at rest (because your muscles relax and notice the cramp). But a heart attack, on the other hand, starts slowly when the body is active. It tends to get worse with exertion and could last longer.
How to stop anxiety chest pain?
To help you with easing your anxiety chest pain, I selected 5 powerful tips to use. These 5 things helped me a lot to overcome my chest pain:
A great way to let go of much muscle tension around the chest area is by doing yoga. When you practice yoga, you stretch your body and can let go of the tension that is locked within your muscles. Especially the positions where you put your shoulders down and open your chest are great ways to let go of the muscle tension.
This position is the opposite of what your body does when it is stressed. I recommend practising yoga once a week if you struggle with anxiety, as it is a great way to help your body relax and let go of the built-up stress.
The second tip I would recommend is to practice meditation. Using meditation or other calming exercises are a great way to calm your anxious mind, which is probably fabricating many anxious thoughts.
I practice meditation first thing in the morning and before I go to bed. This helps me set the tone for either the day or the night. When I meditate, I try to generate feelings of gratitude and other heart-opening emotions. This helps you to open your chest area very fast. You can find many great meditations on YouTube if you want to start meditating.
#3. Deep breathing
The third tip to ease your anxiety chest pain is to use diaphragmatic breathing. Often when we are feeling stressed, we breathe very shallow. Also, our breath is stuck in our chest. To practice diaphragmatic breathing, place one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest. Then inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 7 and then exhale for 8. With each inhale your stomach should push upward against your hand, while your chest remains still.
You can practice this for 3-4 times a day for 5-10 minutes to help yourself calm down.
The fourth tip I have to ease your anxiety chest pain is to exercise. Because of the excess adrenaline and cortisol that rush through your body, you have a lot of energy available to burn off those stress hormones. Your body releases those chemicals to deal with the perceived danger… but most of the time we try to stay calm and have to deal with the aroused energy instead. Now you have a lot of extra energy to go to the gym and burn off the excess energy… and get in shape!
#5. Acceptance and PAU response
The best tip to ease your anxiety chest pain is to respond well if you feel chest pain coming up. Most of the time we get very frustrated (I did as well) when we feel anxious and again have to deal with chest pain. But by reacting with fear, anger and frustration, we only evoke the same emotions anxiety thrives on.
By using the right response, you eliminate a lot of the intensity of anxiety chest pain. This mean allowing the chest pain to take place and stop fighting it. Simply by telling yourself that it will pass and that it is OK to feel it, you rapidly decrease a lot of the intensity.
I teach my clients the PAU Response (Point, Allow and Use) to ease their anxiety.
If you want to learn that exact response I teach my paid clients, then download my FREE PDF before it expires.
When to see a doctor?
Even if you know think that your chest pain is caused by anxiety, it’s always wise to seek medical attention. If you struggle with chest pain on a daily, consistent basis it is always best to be sure about whether you do have or don’t have a disease.
When you go to the doctor, you either know it is an underlying disease and get treatment, or you know your heart is in perfect health and you find yourself more relaxed the next time it happens.
After this article, I hope you gained a better understanding of your chest pain and how anxiety can cause your chest pain. These chest pains seem scary but are most of the time innocent and related to your anxiety. But always make sure to check with your doctor if you are not sure about your chest pain.
To ease your chest pain, understand that the best thing you can do is to let your body relax and to give it the time to destress itself. In addition to relaxation, try to practice yoga, mediation, deep breathing and exercise. Especially exercise helps you to burn off the adrenaline and cortisol that are the cause of your anxiety symptoms.
If you are serious about freeing yourself from anxiety, then make sure you watch my FREE Masterclass down below where I teach you the top 3 mistakes anxious people make and what to do instead.
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