I get weird stabbing-like pains in my chest sometimes, that last for no more than a second. What's going on?
October 27, 2012 12:20 PM   Subscribe

I get weird stabbing-like pains in my chest sometimes, that last for no more than a second. What's going on?

I'm a reasonably healthy 20-year-old male. For years, I've gotten a weird feeling in my chest, kind of like a stabbing sharp pain in my chest, sometimes on the left side, sometimes in the center of my chest, where it feels like it's coming from my heart.

Sometimes deep breathing also exacerbates the pain. But it happens once or twice a day when it does happen, and it comes and goes... one week I'd have it, and then for months it goes away.

Does anybody know what this might be? Should I be scared for my heart? I got an echocardiogram and did the Holter monitor four months ago for PVC (premature ventricular contraction) and my heart was found to be healthy. So, my hypercondriac side tells me that I'm dying, but my rational side tells me to stop worrying.
posted by suburbs to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Precordial catch syndrome?
posted by ludwig_van at 12:23 PM on October 27, 2012 [11 favorites]

What's your salt consumption like? Whenever my diet is too high in salt, I get weird stabby pains in my chest, too. It's like my muscles have suddenly gone crazy taught and are grinding against each other when I breathe. Eating pretzels seems to bring it on the most.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 12:28 PM on October 27, 2012

You're OK. Ludwig_van nailed it. Source: I used to be a hypochondriac.
posted by mcav at 12:28 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you have health insurance, you might as well get it checked out.

Anecdata: A friend of mine went to the ER sure she was having a heart attack, only to find out it was a severe form of indigestion; confusing these two apparently isn't as uncommon as you might think.
posted by smirkette at 12:30 PM on October 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

Gas? GERD? Hiatus hernia? Xenomorphs?
posted by elizardbits at 12:31 PM on October 27, 2012

(Seriously though, I get this occasionally myself and thus far it has been the first three and never the fourth.)
posted by elizardbits at 12:32 PM on October 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

My mom would call them "growing pains".
posted by Thorzdad at 12:37 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you were getting a workup for your heart, did you really not mention that you've been having chest pain for years?

Just mention it on your next follow up visit to your doctor who's got the Holter and echo and other testing results and knows you and your medical history - they'll be most likely to give you a useful answer.

It's pain in your chest, so it'd be impossible to guarantee it has nothing to do with your heart as an over-the-internet diagnosis, but nothing in your story suggests coronary artery disease, which would be vanishingly rare in a healthy 20 year old. And unless you do cocaine or similar drugs, you don't need to worry about heart attacks for any other reason either. Finally, you've been having the pain for years, so chances are good that you don't need to be scared about anything at all, because whatever is causing the pain clearly hasn't caused any serious harm to befall you yet, which suggests that whatever it is, it's benign. IANYD, this is not medical advice.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 12:41 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

It won't hurt to get it checked out by a doctor, but if you've already had your heart checked over recently and your symptoms don't wildly diverge from the description in ludwig_van's link, then yeah, sounds exactly like precordial catch syndrome. (I've had it my whole life and can testify that the pain feels panic-inducingly bad sometimes.)
posted by Catseye at 12:45 PM on October 27, 2012

Holy crap, I get this too, though it's always on my left side. I got them more as a teenager, so part of me always assumed they were 'growing pains' like Thorzdad says above. I only get them once every few months now, and once I went a year or so in-between episodes.

It sounds exactly like the Precordial catch syndrome wiki describes, down to the freezing in place until it's gone.
posted by sonmi at 12:46 PM on October 27, 2012

Precordial catch syndrome is probably a more likely idea, but just to throw it out there, mitral valve prolapse is a typically fairly benign issue with a heart valve that can be associated with both chest pain and with PVCs. This should have been picked up on your echo though if it were the problem.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 12:47 PM on October 27, 2012

Precordial catch syndrome was my first guess, too. I've had very similar pains off and on for years (though they're way less frequent now in my 40s than they were in my 20s). I also have a fairly significant mitral-valve prolapse (and a slightly enlarged aortic root, related to a connective tissue disorder), and have had dozens of echocardiograms over the years, which hasn't shown any definitive relation between the MVP and the pains I have. So PCS has wound up being everyone's best guess.
posted by scody at 12:54 PM on October 27, 2012

My wife's been having unexplained, intermittent chest pains, in a very similar pattern to what you're describing. We were, of course, worried that they were heart-related, but after months of testing and concern, it turns out that they're more-likely-than-not nutcracker esophagus. Which is annoying, but benign.
posted by uncleozzy at 1:35 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Similar to precordial catch - costochondritis (inflammation of the rib cartilage near the sternum) is a very common cause of chest pain. What you describe sounds broadly musculoskeletal in character. The fact it's been happening for years is also promising.

Heart pain is not sharp. There's no sensory nerve endings in the heart, so when the heart is damaged the pain is usually characterised as dull and crushing. People having heart attacks say they feel like something's sitting on their chest - not like they've been stabbed.
posted by chiquitita at 3:48 PM on October 27, 2012

Have you been checked for asthma? I get these too and I have asthma. Birds of a feather was right about salt consumption, at least in relationship to asthma it makes symptoms worse. Studies have been done that have linked the two. Not saying you have asthma.... just putting another perspective out there. Good luck!
posted by luciddream928 at 9:32 PM on October 27, 2012

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