Burning in the chest

Definition - What is a burning sensation in the chest?

A burning sensation in the chest is an acute pain in the chest area. Many people feel uncomfortable because of the fear that something serious like a heart attack could be behind it. To the front, the chest is delimited by ribs and the sternum, to the back by the spine and within the chest are important organs such as the heart and lungs. Accordingly, the causes of a burning sensation in the chest can be many.

Causes of burning in the chest

Due to the anatomical position of the chest with all its structures such as ribs, spine and muscles as well as the various organs, the burning sensation in the chest can have various causes. There are many muscles in the chest area that a healthy person hardly notices. But these muscles can also become tense and cause a burning sensation or cause pain in the chest due to sore muscles. Depending on where the pain begins, the burning sensation can also radiate. Rib fractures after a traumatic injury and back pain, for example due to vertebral blockages radiating into the chest, can also be responsible for the burning sensation in the chest.

The digestive system can cause a burning sensation in the chest, often caused by heartburn.

It is not uncommon for a burning sensation in the chest to be caused by a lung disease, often bronchial asthma. In addition, pneumonia, pulmonary embolism and pneumothrorax (a pathological accumulation of air in the so-called pleural space of the pleura) can trigger a burning sensation in the chest. Inflammation of the pleura and mid-pleurisy can also lead to a burning sensation in the chest.

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In addition, a common cause of burning in the chest is angina pectoris (chest tightness) caused by constricted coronary arteries. In situations, for example during sports, the diseased vessels cannot supply the heart with sufficient blood and a sharp pain in the chest occurs. If the coronary arteries are completely blocked, a heart attack can cause the burning sensation. All heart diseases such as heart valve disorders, myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscles) or inflammation of the pericardium can cause a burning sensation in the chest.

In addition to all these different causes, the widespread disease high blood pressure (arterial hypertension) can also cause a burning sensation in the chest that is similar to tightness of the chest (angina pectoris), shingles (herpes zoster) or, for example, a two-skin injury.


Heartburn can extend from the upper abdomen to the chest and down the throat and is often accompanied by acidic burping. It feels uncomfortable and burning. A common cause of heartburn is when acidic gastric juice flows into the esophagus. It can be triggered by certain foods, illnesses or even pregnancy and cause a burning sensation in the chest. Mild heartburn is often easy to treat by avoiding certain acidic foods and avoiding alcohol and nicotine. Drug therapy can help with troublesome heartburn; proton pump inhibitors are particularly common, for example Pantoprazole, taken to reduce acidity in the stomach.

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A cold (flu-like infection) is one of the most common illnesses that affects most children and adults several times a year. It is an acute inflammation of the upper respiratory tract, i.e. the lining of the nose and throat. Classic cold symptoms are cough, runny nose, sore throat and headache. The scratching and dryness in the throat can radiate to the chest and, if the lungs are affected, cause the chest to burn. When pneumonia develops, a burning sensation and pain in the chest is very common.

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Muscle tension and simple sore muscles can cause a burning sensation in the chest. It is often pain from the muscles in the upper back that radiate into the chest and cause movement-dependent chest pain. A harmless tension in the back muscles can trigger a burning sensation in the chest, but also sore muscles after extensive back training.

Burning in the left chest

If you look at the left side of the chest, there are several possible causes of a burning sensation in the chest. Tension in the muscles and vertebral blockages can radiate into any region of the chest, as can rib fractures and bruises.

Most of the heart and the left lung are located in the left chest. Lung diseases such as pneumonia, pneomothorax or pulmonary embolism can cause a burning sensation here, but also lung cancer.

Heart disease can also be considered. Inflammation of the pericardium, heart valve disease, myocarditis and other heart diseases can also lead to chest discomfort. High blood pressure (arterial hypertension) and cardiac arrhythmias are also possible triggers. That is why it is important to describe the pain in detail in the event of symptoms such as burning in the chest so that the doctor can carry out a thorough diagnosis.

Burning in the center of the chest

In the middle of the chest lies the so-called mediastinum, the space in the middle of the skin. This contains numerous vessels and nerves and organs such as the esophagus, the windpipe and the thymus, an organ of the lymphatic system. The middle membrane can become inflamed (mediastinitis) and cause the chest to pull and burn. But diseases such as a tear in the esophagus or heartburn also cause a burning sensation in the chest.

Burning in the right chest

In the right rib cage is the right lung, which can become inflamed or cause symptoms from other diseases, such as pulmonary embolism, pneumothorax or even lung cancer.

Diagnosis of burning sensation in the chest

A burning sensation in the chest can be caused by a variety of causes, ranging from harmless conditions like heartburn to serious heart and lung conditions.Therefore, it is important for the doctor to make a diagnosis to describe the burning sensation in the chest as precisely as possible. How the pain feels, when it occurs, and for how long are important clues as to the cause. In some diseases, the burning sensation occurs in certain situations, for example when moving or when breathing.

To examine the heart, an EKG (electrocardiogram) carried out. With the help of a chest x-ray, the attending physician can detect changes in the lungs and bones as well as fluid retention and injuries to the diaphragm. If heartburn is the cause of the burning sensation in the chest, a gastroscopy can examine the esophagus and if the lungs have further symptoms, a lungoscopy (Bronchoscopy) make sense.

The attending physician will have a detailed discussion about the symptoms and, after the discussion and the physical examinations, will decide what further examinations are necessary to find and treat the cause of the burning sensation in the chest.

Burning in the chest when coughing

Cough is a symptom that can occur in the context of various illnesses and serves as a protective reflex to get rid of foreign bodies or germs, "cough up". A cold can lead to a cough that coughs up mucus.

Dry cough is a dry cough that does not release mucus. Dry cough is a classic symptom of acute bronchitis, an inflammation of the mucous membranes in the bronchi. The inflammation is often caused by viruses as part of a cold and can spread from the windpipe to the smallest bronchi in the lungs. A burning sensation behind the breastbone when coughing is very common. If you have severe bronchitis, you may even experience a burning sensation in the chest area while breathing.

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Burning in the chest when breathing

A burning sensation in your chest when you breathe may be caused by inflammation of the bronchi (bronchitis), Lungs (pneumonia), Lung membrane (pleurisy) or with broken ribs. Every breath can lead to severe burning and stinging in the chest, which makes breathing much more difficult, so that you only inhale very carefully. To find out what causes a burning sensation in the chest when you breathe, it is necessary to have a thorough discussion of the symptoms and a physical examination. The chest is viewed, tapped and listened to. A lung function test and, if necessary, diagnostic imaging such as X-rays, ultrasound or CT, can be important for the diagnosis.

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Concomitant symptoms

A burning sensation in the chest often has accompanying symptoms, which depend heavily on the cause of the burning sensation.

In the case of lung diseases, in addition to burning in the chest, symptoms such as coughing, a stinging sensation in the chest, labored breathing or even shortness of breath occur. As part of a cold, there is also a feeling of fatigue and a lack of performance.

If the trigger is the heart, the accompanying symptoms can be varied. Angina pectoris (chest tightness) often causes a burning sensation in the chest and heart pounding and shortness of breath. Sometimes the pain radiates to the shoulder, arms or jaw and the symptoms often subside after a few minutes. A heart attack typically includes severe stinging and burning in the chest behind the sternum, as well as tightness and shortness of breath. The pain can radiate to the shoulders, back, upper abdomen, neck and lower jaw and most of the time there is also sweating, nausea and fear of death.

Stinging in the chest

Stinging can be an accompanying symptom if the heart is responsible for the burning sensation in the chest. If the coronary arteries constrict in angina pectoris (chest tightness), the stinging in the chest is a common accompanying symptom. A sharp pain can also occur with a heart attack, but also movement-dependent or breath-dependent with pneumonia, myocarditis or pericarditis.

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Tension in the chest

When there is a burning sensation in the chest, pulling is sometimes associated with muscle tension, sore muscles, or bone causes such as vertebral blockages and rib injuries. The pulling and burning sensation often occurs depending on movement, i.e. when the affected muscles are tensed.

Back pain

Back pain is one of the most common complaints in our society and the second most common reason why a doctor is consulted. Back pain is any pain in the upper or lower back, it can be acute or chronic. Vertebral body injuries, inflammation, joint wear (arthrosis), Stiffening of the thoracic and lumbar spine (for Bechterew's disease) and many other possible causes can trigger back pain that even radiates into the chest and causes a painful burning sensation.

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With shortness of breath

Burning in the chest with shortness of breath is a combination of symptoms that occurs primarily with lung problems. If you have pneumonia (pneumonia), Bronchitis or pulmonary embolism, it can lead to shortness of breath, which often makes those affected feel as if they cannot breathe enough air. But also heart diseases and respiratory diseases can create the feeling of difficult breathing. Shortness of breath (Dyspnea) is a serious symptom that needs thorough investigation and treatment.

Therapy for burning in the chest

The treatment for burning chest pain depends largely on the underlying cause. The attending physician has effective immediate measures available for some causes. In angina pectoris (chest tightness), the doctor can inform the person concerned Nitroglycerin let inhale. This drug works immediately and effectively dilates the heart vessels. For heartburn you can Antacids Medicines that reduce gastric acid build-up and reduce acidic belching are taken. Targeted manipulations can treat causal vertebral blockages and lead to faster pain relief. For herpes zoster (Shingles) medically prescribed antivirals are required. Painkillers can help with rib fractures or bruises. If you know that muscle tension is responsible for the burning sensation, heat patches are included Capsaicin helpful, they stimulate blood circulation and relax the muscles. Exercise also helps.

Duration and prognosis of a burning sensation in the chest

The duration of the burning sensation in the chest is subject to the cause. In the case of vertebral blockages, the pain can disappear immediately with targeted physiotherapy, as can angina pectoris with inhalation. If there is inflammation of the heart muscle, pericardium, lungs or bronchi, treatment with antibiotics may be necessary, which lasts for several days and slowly provides relief.

The prognosis for chest pain is also determined by the cause. If a heart attack is detected and treated quickly, the prognosis is better than without treatment. In the case of simple vertebral blockages or bruised ribs, the course is usually straightforward and the prognosis is good. In the case of inflammatory diseases, the right therapy is crucial for the prognosis.

How dangerous can a burning sensation be in the chest?

The burning sensation in the chest can become dangerous if the cause is dangerous and not treated. In particular with heart and lung diseases, a doctor must be consulted in order to avoid serious complications. Treatment is also necessary for a diaphragmatic injury or a tear in the esophagus. These diseases are difficult to diagnose yourself and they can be very dangerous without therapy. A burning sensation in the chest can have many causes, which can be very harmless, but also extremely dangerous. Therefore, complaints should always be thoroughly investigated.

Burning in the chest while breastfeeding

During breastfeeding, the nipples become irritated and stressed. Various triggers can cause a burning sensation, irritation, and itchiness in natural breastfeeding. An incorrect attachment technique or an unfavorable breastfeeding position cause pain in the nipple, but can be prevented in the long term. In addition, peculiarities on the baby's mouth such as a short lip frenulum, a special palate shape or a wide jaw joint can put strain on the nipples when breastfeeding. Incorrect suckling can also irritate the nipples and cause them to burn.

The frequent strain on the nipples while breastfeeding makes it easier for bacteria and other pathogens to penetrate the nipples and cause infection. This can lead to a pronounced burning sensation in the context of mastitis.

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Burning in the chest during pregnancy

During pregnancy, the breasts and nipples change and become very sensitive. The hormonal balance changes radically. Many pregnant women complain of burning and itching around the nipples during pregnancy. Since the nipples are very sensitive during this time, textiles (e.g. with a high polyacrylic content) or cosmetics that were well tolerated before pregnancy can now lead to irritation.

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Burning of the chest

A burning sensation in the chest often has simple causes. Wearing clothing that rubs irritates the breast, especially the nipples. Poorly fitting clothing, especially poorly fitting bras, can irritate the skin and nipple and cause the breasts to itch and burn. To avoid burning your chest, you should wear underwear that fits well and is tailored to your needs, i.e. wear sports bras during exercise to support the tissue. If certain cosmetics are not tolerated, they should be avoided.

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Burning of the nipple

A burning sensation on the nipple can have a variety of causes and may be accompanied by itching or redness, swelling, and warming of the skin. If the nipple is irritated by clothing, either from irritating material or from an ill-fitting bra, the nipple and surrounding skin are often burning and / or itchy. Cosmetic products such as body lotions and irritating detergents can also trigger a burning sensation on the nipple.

In addition, fluctuations in hormones have a major impact on the nipple. Burning and / or itching can occur during puberty, pregnancy, breastfeeding and menopause.

Inflammation of the mammary glands is less common (mastitis) the reason for the complaints. The nipple and the surrounding skin are often reddened, warmed, and sometimes swollen and painful. In the event of inflammation, the gynecologist should be consulted in order to initiate specific treatment depending on the pathogen causing the mastitis. Fungal infections trigger a burning sensation on the nipple even more rarely.

Burning sensation after breast augmentation

For breast augmentation (Breast implantation) is a surgical procedure in which a lot is demanded of the body. According to plastic surgeons, a burning chest pain can occur in the days after the surgery. The burning sensation can often be relieved with cooling pads, but an appointment should still be made to rule out other causes of the burning sensation in the chest.

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