Chest and Neck Pain

Many neck pain sufferers will find that they are also suffering from concomitant chest pain. The causes of this can vary enormously, with many requiring immediate medical attention. Possible causes of pain in the chest and neck include broken bones, acid reflux, and nerve injuries amongst others.

Cardiac Causes of Chest and Neck Pain

The primary fear of anyone experiencing chest and neck pain is that it is a sign of a heart attack. This is indeed a possible cause, and anyone (particularly those with a history of heart problems) should, upon suffering acute pain of this kind, consult a doctor immediately.

Possible cardiac causes of chest and neck pain include ischaemia, where blood supply is reduced or cut off to the heart muscle, such as in heart attacks, stable, or unstable angina. Inflammation of the heart (myocarditis) is another possible cause, as is pericarditis (inflammation of the sack around the heart). Cardiomyopathy (heart failure) is another potential trigger of this kind of pain. Clearly, all of these issues should be diagnosed by a qualified physician and appropriate measures taken.

Broken Bones

A fractured collar bone (clavicle) can cause both chest and neck pain as this bone links the arms to the body and has a complex array of nerves and blood vessels lying close to it. If the bone fractures then these structures can also become damaged, and inflammation in the surrounding tissues can also cause ischaemia (loss of blood supply), or pressure to be placed on the nerves. Other signs of a clavicle fracture, apart from neck and chest pain, include a grinding sensation, an inability to lift the arm, and a sagging shoulder on the side affected. There may also be an observable deformity or swelling of the area. This kind of injury can be quite common in athletes and in rambunctious small children.

Brachial Plexus Injury

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Cervical Spine Ribs

Another possible athletic injury that can cause chest and neck pain is damage to the brachial plexus which is an important network of nerves that sends signals to the upper body from the spinal cord. This network is liable to be stretched or torn with forceful movement of the shoulder downward as the head is pushed upward (such as occurs in football, and other contact sports). Symptoms include a burning sensation in the arm on the affected side, weakness, and numbness, with impaired muscle activity.

Cervical Rib

Some people are born with an extra, cervical, rib, which can cause chest and neck pain. This is above the first rib, located next to the cervical spine and close to nerves, muscles, and blood vessels. If neck muscles are tight then compression of these structures can occur due to space constrictions caused by the cervical rib, leading to a deep pain in the neck, chest and shoulder. Bluish discoloration of the hand and swelling in the arm and hand can occur, alongside a heavy sensation in the hand.

Gastrointestinal Causes

Acid reflux can cause neck and chest pain amongst other gastrointestinal causes. This is where acid from the stomach leaks into the oesophagus by overcoming the sphincter that divides the two. This can create a burning sensation in the chest and neck, depending on how far up the oesophagus the acid travels. Galls stones, esophageal cramps, tumours and even varicose veins in the esophagus can cause chest and neck pains. Again, these are conditions that require a physician’s assistance.

Pulmonary Causes

The lungs can also contribute to chest and neck pain, due to inflammation of the lungs or the sack surrounding them (pleuritis), pneumonia, pulmonary embolism ( a blood clot in the lung/pulmonary artery), and pneumothorax (gas in the lung cavity causing the lung to collapse).

Sometimes chest and neck pain are not due to any of the causes above, but are a symptom of a nervous condition, such as anxiety, stress, and panic attacks. If no physical pathology is present then this may be a further avenue to explore.




Last Updated: 9/10/2010