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What are Common Causes of Chest and Back Pain?

Article Details
  • Written By: Britt Archer
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 26 March 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2018
    Conjecture Corporation
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While chest and back pain can be linked due to the same illness or malady, not all pains are related. Unrelated chest and back pain is the result of injury or strain on one part of the torso and not the other. It is possible to feel pain in the chest and not the back, and vice versa. One of the more serious conditions that can cause both chest and back pain is a heart attack.

Heart attack symptoms vary from person to person, and also from male to female. Back pain is a symptom more frequently reported in women than men. Men typically experience chest pain. Either gender can experience both chest and back pain when a heart attack strikes.

Chest and back pain are caused by a variety of ailments, ranging from mild to life threatening. While all aches and pains should be examined by a licensed medical professional, some are more urgent than others. Classifying, quantifying and determining the causes of chest pain and back pain, and whether the two are linked, can help a person decide whether he needs immediate medical attention.

Less serious causes of back pain include pulled muscles, pinched nerves and bruises. Thoracic back pain, or upper back pain, is not the same as lower back pain. More troubling causes of back pain include disk problems and spinal problems. Both of these are related to the long series of bones and nerves running through the back that act as the body's main support system. All of these problems, and more, can contribute to chest and back pain.

Minor causes of chest pain are similar to those of back pain — pulled muscles, pinched nerves and bruising. More serious causes of chest pain include heart attacks and angina. In both of these conditions, the arteries leading to the heart are narrowed. The pain associated with angina is typically worsened with exercise and subsides during rest, while a heart attack can strike at any point and is not alleviated without significant, life-saving medical treatment. Ailments of the lungs, such as pleurisy, can also cause uncomfortable pains in the chest.

Treating chest and back pain can be symptomatic, cause-oriented or both. Symptomatic relief focuses on alleviating the pain in the chest and back. Cause-oriented treatment focuses on treating the underlying cause of the pain. Many doctors will remedy the cause and provide symptomatic relief as needed. The exception comes when it is necessary for patients to feel and communicate pain in order to get an accurate diagnosis or to ensure their safety during treatment.

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