Can Digestive Disorders Cause Chest and Back pain?

Many heart disorders and aortic aneurysms can cause chest and back pain between the shoulder blades. But disorders of the digestive system, especially that of the esophagus, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease caused by the back flow of  stomach acids into the esophagus, can cause a feeling of tightness or pain in the middle of the chest. Esophageal spasms are also felt as a squeezing sensation in the chest, very similar to the pain caused by heart disorders.

The burning sensation in the chest, usually referred to as heartburn may have nothing to do with the heart at all. It may be caused by gastro esophageal reflux disease instead. In the US, GERD is the most frequent digestive disorder. The burning sensation usually rises upwards into the chest and it may extend up to the neck and the throat too. It typically occurs following meals, especially while lying down after a meal. On the other hand, pain and discomfort in the chest due to heart attack appear during exertion and gradually disappears on resting. Feeling of a lump in the throat is sometimes associated with heart problem but if the difficulty is felt only when a person is swallowing, it may be resulting from an esophageal disorder.

Since the symptoms of heart disease and digestive disorders like GERD are so very similar, the priority is given to diagnostic tests to detect heart disorders. ECG, x-ray and stress tests may be conducted to rule out heart problems, before considering the possibility of esophageal disorder. Typically, heart disease is treated only after detecting the exact cause by a variety of tests. However, people showing characteristic symptoms of gastro esophageal reflux disease are usually given drugs blocking stomach acid production, while awaiting the test results.

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Yasser Elnahas

MD, PHD, Professor Of CardioVascular Surgery
Dr. Yasser Elnahas, Is an associate Professor of Cardiovascular Surgery. Dr. Elnahas was trained as a fellow At Texas Heart Institute And Mayo Clinic Foundation.Dr. Elnahas is dedicated to educating the general public about different disease conditions and simplifying the medical knowledge in an easy to understand terminology.

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One Response to Can Digestive Disorders Cause Chest and Back pain?

  1. Queenie Oxborrow says:

    The digestive system is an intricate system that can be disrupted by disease, diet, and emotional stress. Common digestive problems such as heartburn/GERD, IBD, and IBS cause millions of Americans to suffer daily and limit quality of life. Digestive problems often result in symptoms such as bloating, diarrhea, gas, stomach pain, and stomach cramps. Learning more about the digestive system may help with managing these problems.

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