Chest pain can be a scary experience. Even if the pain is slight, many people might assume the worst possible scenario: the beginning of a heart attack. But when the pain fades after a short period of time, the panic fades too. There are many reasons for chest pain aside from a heart attack, and some are completely benign. In fact, these random bouts of pain are more common than you think and one doctor on TikTok explains why.
“Not all chest pain comes from the heart”
The account Life Of a Doctor is run by an emergency physician who shares general health information. In one of his most popular videos, he demystifies chest pain. The clip begins with a girl holding her chest with the caption: “When you get that random chest pain every 6 months since you were a child where you feel a stabbing pain in your heart and have to breathe tiny breaths till it randomly goes away.”
The doctor begins by explaining that not all chest pain comes from the heart. The girl seems to be describing signs of precordial catch syndrome, a common cause of chest pain. “This is usually described as sudden onset sharp chest pain that’s located in this area,” he said. “Now this pain lasts for a few seconds, two minutes and it’s worse with deep breathing. And this is believed to be due to a pinched nerve that runs across a chest wall and is not life threatening.”
This experience seemed to be relatable to many people. The comments section filled with relieved followers. “I always knew it wasn’t life threatening but each time it happens I’m always like well this is it,” said one commenter. Another added, “The amount of time I thought I was getting a heart attack and thinking I am wayyy to young to go out this way lmao.” 
Read: Know the difference between a heart attack, a cardiac arrest and a stroke. It could save a life
More about precordial catch syndrome
Precordial catch syndrome — also known as Texidor’s twitch — often feels like a sharp, stabbing pain in the chest while inhaling. The severity differs; some people feel a dull ache and some feel intense pain. It typically happens when a person is resting, especially when they are slouched or bending over. The pain lasts briefly, between a few seconds and three minutes, while staying in an area no larger than one or two fingertips. The pain often worsens with deep breathing but it doesn’t spread to other areas and there’s no tenderness on the chest. There are also no other symptoms aside from shallow breathing, which may lead to lightheadedness; heart rate should remain normal.
There’s no obvious trigger for this syndrome, but it can occur from bad posture, an injury, or during a growth spurt, which is why this pain is common for older children and young adults. Adults can also experience it in rare cases. While growth spurts cannot be avoided, injuries and bad posture can be. Standing and sitting upright can prevent future triggers.
Precordial catch syndrome is harmless but people who suspect they have it should seek medical attention if they have underlying heart conditions or if they experience any additional symptoms. Since the pain is short and goes away on its own, treatment is often not needed, but doctors may recommend an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory to relieve the sensation for some cases. Otherwise, relaxing and sitting upright can relieve the pain, as well as breathing slowly. Some patients discovered that taking a deep breath makes the syndrome dissipate but it does cause a brief pang of pain. Therefore, taking slow, shallow breaths may be more advisable. 
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Other causes of chest pain
There are many body parts in the chest aside from the heart. Therefore, pain can be caused by issues with the lungs, bones, muscles, and digestive system. For instance, the pain can occur due to anxiety, bruised or broken ribs, sore muscles, pneumonia, bronchitis, acid reflux, gallstones, and more. As a result, it’s important to note other symptoms you experience alongside chest pain. They can indicate whether the issue is heart-related or not.
Symptoms of heart-related issues can include chest pressure or tightness, pain in the jaw and back and arms, fatigue, lightheadedness, shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea, abdominal pain, and pain during exertion. There are also symptoms that indicate that the chest pain may not be related to the heart. These include a sour, acidic taste in the mouth, rashes, fever, chills, runny nose, aches, feelings of anxiety or panic, hyperventilating, pain while swallowing, difficulty swallowing, pain that decreases and increases depending on the body’s position, and pain that increases with coughs or deep breaths.
To diagnose chest pain, the doctor will ask about related symptoms, other medical conditions you might have, and any treatments or medications you might be on. They might order tests depending on what they suspect you have, which may include blood tests, X-rays, an MRI, an ECG, stress tests, etc. Fortunately, there are many treatments for chest pain, heart-related and otherwise. However, seek emergency treatment if the pain is new, unexplained, and lasts for a few months, or if you suspect you’re having a heart attack. 
Keep Reading: Dad, 31, thought chest pain was a cold. It turned out to be heart cancer
- “One cause of chest pain to ease your mind.” TikTok. Life of a Doctor. August 14, 2022
- “What is precordial catch syndrome?” Medical News Today. Amanda Barrell. November 21, 2017
- “What Are the Causes of Chest Pain?” Healthline. Amanda Barrell. December 13, 2021