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Chest tightness when walking, upper back discomfort, heartburn, no dizziness. Should it be checked?

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General Surgeon
Practicing since : 2008
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THe last few days while my mom takes her daily walk, she experiences a tightness in her chest and she has to walk slower. The feeling goes away when she stops, but a few times has a feeling in her upper back. I'm a little concerned for her that it's something she should get checked out with her local doctor. Do you agree? She has also mentioned some slight heartburn and burps after some meals. It sounds like there is no dizziness, light headedness or pain in her chest.
Posted Tue, 11 Sep 2012 in Digestion and Bowels
Answered by Dr. Grzegorz Stanko 59 minutes later

Tightness in chest we can treat as some kind of chest pain. Especially that it is related with exercise. You have also mentioned that this pain can occur in upper back. Is it left scapula area? If yes, it is probable that this pain comes from heart.

According to your mom age, high blood pressure and cholesterol problem it comes highly probable that she is dealing with ischemic heart disease (stable angina). This condition is caused by heart blood vessels sclerosis (atherosclerosis) what results with reduced blood supply of heart muscle. So the heart condition should be checked at first (as it can result with heart attack when not treated). ECG and echocardiography should be performed and coronarography may be necessary if any signs of ischemia will be revealed.

There is also a chance that this symptom comes from lungs disease. If you mom do smokes it might be COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), or if she does not smoke, and her heart is fine it might be asthma. Moreover asthma is often related with gastro-oesophageal reflux disease so it can explain heartburns.

So the second thing that should be done, if heart disease is ruled out, is lung check-up. Spirometry should be done (in both COPD and asthma) and chest X-ray (in case of COPD).

And if this about heartburn it can be either heart disease, lung disease GERD or peptic ulcer symptom. So if your mom heart will occur fine, gastroduodenoscopy should be performed as well.

Hope this will help. Feel free to ask further questions.

Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: Chest tightness when walking, upper back discomfort, heartburn, no dizziness. Should it be checked? 8 hours later
First of all, thank you for taking the time to answer my questions and concerns, Dr. Stanko. It's been a big help especially for a worried daughter.

I will ask her where the pain is in her upper back and relay your answers to her also. Heart problems do run in the family with 2 of her 3 sisters having problems in the past. This is something that makes me concerned for myself, so I've been trying to look after my own health.

My mom does not smoke currently, but has in the past and I believe she quit over 40 years ago. So, I will also relay the information about getting a lung check up as well.

My only follow up question is that she also mentioned a tightness in her throat at the same time. Is this related to the heart also?

Thank you so much again for your help Dr. Stanko, it is very much appreciated!

Answered by Dr. Grzegorz Stanko 4 hours later
Yes, tightness in throat can be also related to heart problems as well. It is quite often symptom mostly associated with cardiac arythmias but can also occur with ischemic heart disease.
Take care and feel free to ask further quesions
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: Chest tightness when walking, upper back discomfort, heartburn, no dizziness. Should it be checked? 16 hours later
Hello again!

Thank you for your answer again, it is very thoughtful. Now I can tell her more of what you said and get her to make an appointment with her local doctor.

Please take care also and I'll let her know that you're very caring!
Answered by Dr. Grzegorz Stanko 2 hours later

I`m glad I could help you.

Please close this discussion if all your queries are answered for now. Should you have any concerns in future and feel I could be of help, I will be available here:

All the best to you and your mom
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
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