Chest spasms are contractions in the muscles of the chest that can cause extreme pain until the muscles release. They are usually symptoms of an underlying medical issue and there can be a number of reasons for this symptom to develop. People who experience recurrent spasms may want to consult a doctor for evaluation and should definitely mention this condition on routine medical visits, as they may be a cause for concern.
When the muscles in the chest spasm, people may experience a sensation of tightness, contraction, or pressure in the chest. The muscles can also twitch. Some patients report a fluttering sensation as the chest muscles contract. It can be difficult or painful to take a breath. The pain levels associated vary, depending on the patient and the cause, but they can be excruciating. Once the muscles release, the sensation of pain and tightness should resolve very quickly, leaving the patient feeling comfortable again.
Some causes for chest spasms can include trauma to the chest, electrolyte imbalances, neurological damage, and certain chronic conditions like asthma and fibromyalgia. People can also develop muscle pain in the chest in response to tension, anxiety, or stress. Fatigue can also be a factor, as the muscles may be depleted of nutrients and spasm in response even if the patient's electrolytes seem to be balanced. Low levels of magnesium and calcium, in particular, are associated with muscle cramps and twitches.
It can sometimes be difficult to pin down the origins of chest pain. Chest spasms can feel like a heart attack, or may be perceived in the muscles when they are actually originating in the coronary artery or esophagus. Because several conditions can cause chest pain, it is important to receive a medical evaluation for chest spasms that persist, especially if they are accompanied with nausea, dizziness, vomiting, bluing of the fingers and toes, or other symptoms that suggest poor circulation may be involved.
In a workup for chest spasms, a doctor may recommend medical imaging studies, bloodwork, and studies on heart function in addition to performing a physical examination. These diagnostic tools will check for underlying problems that might be responsible for the spasms. A thorough interview will also be conducted to find out more about when the spasms occur. Patients may find it helpful to take notes when they experience chest spasms, as these notes can be used to identify patterns and trends.