You have probably had your share of health scares. You find out that a relative or neighbor just got diagnosed with a life threatening condition and all of a sudden you start experiencing some worrisome symptoms that makes you wonder if you have the same condition.

After hours of “googling” you come to the conclusion that you have a terminal disease and this fear makes you seek out a doctor.

Those are the patient encounters I enjoy the most. Getting a chance at reassuring folks that they will live another day. What was thought to be life threatening was not a big deal after all. What a relief for both the patient and the doctor!

Chest wall pain is one of such. If you’ve ever felt pain on the left side of your chest, heart attack comes to mind. And yes you should be worried and concerned if you experience left sided chest pain and you happen to be a day over forty.

Chest wall pain, also called costochondritis is caused by inflammation in the cartilage that lies between the breast bone and the ribs. The location of the pain is typically around the location of the second and third rib-cartilage junction on either side.

Chest wall pain tends to affect women more than men by a wide margin and affects younger women even more. I couldn’t tell you why women are more affected but had the spouse of a chest wall pain sufferer suggest that it could be related to the female breasts.

Hmmm, he might actually be on to something there.

I would encourage you to seek medical advice for any flicker you feel in the chest.  Shrinking violets as we are, we tend not to have the classic heart attack symptoms of crushing chest pain, shortness of breath, numbness in left arm and breaking out in sweat as is often seen in men experiencing a heart attack.

Nonetheless, the table below is a quick guide to help you determine if you need to call in the ambulance NOW or wait to bring it up at your next check up.


So you have completed an extensive work up to rule out a heart attack and you received the welcome news that it isn’t. You next question would be “so what now?”

Most episodes of costochondritis are fleeting and sporadic at best. For the sustained ones, you can always try anti-inflammatories like Aleve (Naproxen) or Motrin (Ibuprofen).

The quiz below will help you gauge your risk for having a heart attack within the next 10 years.

The “Heart Attack Risk” Quiz is available to logged in Healthgist members.

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About the author

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Dr. Bola

Family physician. Works for the "man" by day, wife & mom 24/7.
Loves the work of translating "medicalese" to plain english.


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