Chest Wall Pain

Chest Wall Pain

Chest wall pain is a relatively common occurrence that affects people for a wide variety of reasons. It can feel like anything from a sharp shooting pain that occurs randomly, to a constant dull ache that lingers all the time. Causes of chest wall pain can be challenging to diagnose. Fortunately, there are treatments available to help treat pain symptoms present in the chest, with the ultimate goal being to diagnose the causing factor.

Neuromas, or post-surgical scars, can cause a significant amount of pain for a patient. Shingles, a virus caused by the chickenpox virus, can also cause a significant amount of pain in the chest. Spinal problems may also manifest in the form of chest wall pain. In addition, surgeries that involve removing ribs can lead to damaged intercostal nerves, causing pain in the chest wall. Each of these different causes may present slightly different in the type of pain, or duration of pain felt by the patient.


Pain looks different on every person. As a result, physicians need to take the time to fully understand the patient’s pain as a whole and develop individualized treatment for the patient. The main goal is to keep patients away from opioid-based pain medications. Typically, conservative treatment approaches, such as physical therapy will be recommended. In the case of spinal problems, this can greatly reduce pain felt by the patient. In other cases, physicians may recommend injections, medication, or stem cell therapy to make the pain more tolerable.

Often, chest wall pain is caused by musculoskeletal problems such as a pulled chest muscle, nerve entrapment, or rheumatic diseases. As a result, the outlook for treatment progression tends to be very positive. Between rest, physical therapy, ice and heat, and non-opioid based medications, patients tend to make a full recovery within a few weeks to a couple of months.

Unfortunately, chest wall pain can be a sign of something minor, like a strained chest muscle, or something major, like a heart attack. In both cases, patients may feel symptoms that are similar to one another. It is important to recognize the signs of a heart attack such as shortness of breath, sudden and severe pain in the lungs, lightheadedness or weakness, nausea, or a high fever. While these are signs of a heart attack, not every person will have every symptom.

Patients who believe they are experiencing a heart attack should call 911 immediately. However, in most cases, chest wall pain is a sign of something more manageable. By ensuring your physician properly diagnoses the cause of your chest wall pain, not only can the cause be treated, but the pain can be alleviated as well. Chest wall pain can feel debilitating and can be very difficult to live with. Fortunately, with advances in pain management, patients do not need to live in pain any longer. With so many treatments available, from physical therapy to medication, to injections and stem cells, patients have a wide variety of treatment plans that can be created to specifically fit their needs.