Chest Pain on Left Side – Why this pain should never be neglected.

Daily, a number of people experience chest pain which could be mild or excruciating.

Be it a Chest pain left side or right side, it is usually unsettling and could affect the daily activity of the sufferer.

Usually the person is likely to be concerned and needs to get it resolved.

Medically, the chest is primarily divided into two regions, the right and the left chest. So chest pain could either arise from the right side of from the left side.

Chest pain on the left side is more scary because that is the position that houses the heart, one of the most important vital organs in the human body.

A medical professional will need to analyse the pain as regards character, severity, duration, frequency, associated symptoms, and increasing or relieving factors so as to reach a probable cause.

This article will outline numerous causes of left-sided chest pain, what signs depict an ongoing heart attack and point out the symptoms and signs necessitating immediate medical care.

Causes of Left Sided Chest Pain

It is important to state here that pain is either due to a direct insult of an underlying structure or indirectly by referred pain from a distant part of the body.

As earlier mentioned, the left side of the chest have more organs than the right side. This means the left side of the chest would have more pain emanating from the region.

Chest Wall Causes:

1. Trauma and/or rib fracture:

Even though this is not a common occurrence in the clinic, it is remain an emergency requiring prompt surgical intervention.

Any sharp or blunt trauma to the chest may damage the underlying structures and/or lead to a rib fracture.

A left sided rib fracture common could puncture the left lung or the heart in a penetrating left sided chest wall injury. They are the most serious.

An accident at home/work, an injury while playing your favorite sports, or most commonly a road traffic accident may result in a closed or penetrating injury that may affect the internal organs like the lung and heart.

Do not hesitate to seek medical advice in case of a trauma that gives left chest pain with associated alarming symptoms.

2. Muscle strain:

Your chest wall is rich in many different muscle fibers running in several directions. Abnormal movements, stress, or strenuous activity may sprain those muscles.

Some times the chest pain left side or right side is the only tell tale sign.

This condition can be simply treated with appropriate rest, local application of a soothing balm and/or painkillers.

3. Costochondritis:

Costochondritis is inflammation of the junctions where the upper ribs join the costal cartilage that attaches them to the breastbone (sternum). Now this is usually overlooked, but it should not.

Direct injury, cough, or an infection may lead to intolerable pain from this inflammation. It is usually a localized pain but may affect more than one costochondral junction.

It is a common cause of chest pain (left or right chest pain) especially in children and adolescents. The most common sites of pain are on the levels of the fourth, fifth, and sixth ribs.

Tietze syndrome is a rare entity that causes chest pain and swelling due to costochondritis.

Costochondritis is usually a self-limiting condition that requires rest, local cold/hot compresses, and painkillers.

Cardiac Causes

1. Heart disease: 

Commonly, heart conditions such as heart attacks give rise to chest pain left side, even though this may radiate to other sides of the chest like the tip of shoulder, right side of the chest etc.

Myocardial Infarction is the reduction in blood flow through heart blood vessels causing the death of heart muscle cells. Though similar to angina chest pain, a heart attack is usually a more severe, crushing pain usually in the center or left side of the chest and is not relieved by rest.

A series of research on myocardial infarction and advancements in treatment options show that myocardial infarction is of public concern.

Pericarditis, an inflammation of the sheath around the heart, gives rise to chest pain that may occur on the right side.

2. Heart Vessel Disease

Coronary Artery Disease

This is a blockage in the heart blood vessels that reduces blood flow and oxygen to the heart muscle itself.

It can cause pain on left side, known as angina. It’s a symptom of heart disease but typically does not cause permanent damage to the heart

Dissecting aortic aneurysm: 

This is another emergency that causes sudden, severe, tearing chest pain. It is more common in those suffering from elevated blood pressure.

The idea behind it is that a tear occurs in the lining of the aorta causing blood to flow between the layers of this major blood vessel.

Consequently, the wall is dissected causing a compromise in blood flow to vital organs, which is life-threatening.

Lungs-related causes:

1. Pneumonia:

Pneumonia is an inflammation of the lung parenchyma in the absence of any chemical component. The development of an inflammed lung tissue adjacent to the overlying pleural surface could lead to pain (pleurisy).

A pink healthy pair of lung… A dark diseased pair of lung.

2. Pulmonary embolism:

This serious condition occurs when the blood vessel that carries blood from the right side of the heart to the lungs becomes blocked with a clot.

When this happens on the right side of the vascular tree, it results in left-sided chest pain.

Furthermore, it is a rather sudden or rapid condition that may also be associated with shortness of breath, racing heartbeats, and/or coughing blood.

3. Pleural conditions:

Pleurisy, an inflammation of the surrounding sac encircling the lungs. If the membrane that covers your lungs becomes inflamed, it can cause chest pain that worsens when you inhale or cough.

The pain is sharp, manifesting on either the left or the right side, and may be severe as a result of dry friction of both layers of the sac rubbing against each other.

Actual sliding of both pleural layers during normal respiration is smooth and painless in the absence of inflammation.

4. Pleural effusion:

This term used to describe the abnormal accumulation of fluid in the pleural sac, is another cause of chest pain. It may be associated with progressive shortness of breath and dry cough.

The shortness of breath develops due to compression of the underlying lung by accumulating fluid. The dry cough is due to direct irritation of the pleura.

5. Pneumothorax:

It is the abnormal presence of air in the pleural cavity and is a serious cause of right-sided chest pain. It is usually a sudden sharp pain after a strenuous act like coughing or sneezing.

The air may accumulate in the pleural sac and lead to complete compression and collapse of the underlying lung.

Therefore, the chest pain may be associated with rapidly progressive shortness of breath, dizziness, racing heartbeats, and/or sudden collapse.

6. Thoracic tumors:

Lung cancer may present with chest pain if it originates from the right side. The tumor invades surrounding structures including the pleural cavity resulting in persistent pain.

Other associated symptoms include progressive shortness of breath, chronic cough, and/or coughing of blood.

Any right-sided chest wall benign or malignant tumor will grow to pressure surrounding structures especially nerves resulting in discomfort and pain.

Gastrointestinal Causes

1. Heartburn/Acid Reflux: 

Your stomach lining is created to withstand the strongly acidic environment present to digest the food we eat.

However, the food pipe or esophagus have a different surface lining that becomes injured upon contact with reflux of stomach acid.

This leads to so-called hot, heartburn sensation, which may be felt on the left side of the chest. Over time it results in Barrett’s Oesophagus. This has been implicated as a cause of Black Melena Poop.

Note that some types of food may aggravate heartburn and bring the chest pain left side or on any other side.

2. Liver and Gallbladder:

These internal body organs are located in the abdomen and play an essential role in digestion and absorption of food.

They are located in the right upper quadrant of the abdomen separated from the right lung and pleura by a muscle called the diaphragm.

Any injury or infection that leads to gallstone formation and inflammation will cause referred pain felt on the left side of the chest and/or left shoulder. Right sided radiation of the pain are typical.

3. Pancreas:

Another abdominal organ that has several functions and it is located in the upper central part of the abdominal cavity.

Inflammation of this organ called pancreatitis can lead to central abdominal pain, which may be referred to the right side of the chest and back.

Other causes

1. Anxiety and stress:

Overwhelming anxiety and stress may lead to a number of symptoms including those simulating a heart attack.

The anxiety attack may give rise to chest pain, shortness of breath, a racing heart, dizziness, and a sense of impending death.

Whenever you are uncertain, medical attention is essential to rule out serious causes before initiating appropriate treatment for anxiety disorders.

2. Shingles:

This is an infection caused by the same virus that gave you chickenpox.

Reactivation of the virus leads to inflammation of a designated nerve supplying a region of your skin called a dermatome.

The affected dermatome gives rise to hypersensitivity and pain. Furthermore, a painful itchy rash develops. If the affected nerve supplies the chest on the right side, it will result in chest pain.


As every other medical conditions, you should consult your local Physician immediately, for urgent medical intervention.

Seek immediate medical counsel if:

  • Sudden onset of severe chest pain.
  • Tearing or crushing character of chest pain.
  • Pain is associated with difficulty in breathing.
  • Chest pain is associated with dizziness, weakness, and/or alteration in the level of consciousness.
  • Pain is associated with fever, nausea, and vomiting.


Pain from a heart attack is often described as tightness or pressure rather than a stabbing pain or a dull ache which begins in the chest but begins to become more severe and radiate to other parts of the body over the course of a few minutes.

This pain does not subside even when you take an analgesic or try to lie in a more comfortable position.

Pain that lasts for a long period of time or is noticeably localized to one area is probably not a heart attack, but may still require medical attention if you have injured yourself.

What You Can Do about It

Chest pain (left side or right side) all signal something wroing, make sure you know the best ways to cope:

A few things to alleviate the discomfort: 

Patients who are experiencing chest pain that does not appear to be life threatening can do a few things to help alleviate their discomfort.

  • Get into a resting position such as lying in bed
  • Take multiple short breaths until your breathing calms.
  • Drinking a glass of water can also help you stay calm which helps relieve chest pain.
  • Placing ice on the area from where you feel the pain.
  • Pain killers can also be useful, but you may want to contact your doctor regarding which medications would be appropriate to use so you do not aggravate your condition further.


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The Admin is a Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria Certified Medical Doctor, with profound expertise in Medical Content Creation and Medical Citizen Journalism. He is popular for being a fast rising online voice in Nigeria, with a flair for animated writing. He is a professional health content writer. He loves to swim, read and play board games. He see himself as one who is destined to play a role in the way health services are rendered to the human race.