Chest pain is usually associated with heart disease. Many times, however, chest pains are due to gastrointestinal dysfunction. Patients naturally need to be assured that their heart is not the cause of chest pains, but once that testing is negative, attention is often given to GI problems. It turns out that ulcers of the esophagus or stomach, esophagitis, gastritis, and esophageal infections can all cause chest pains. Esophageal spasm, which may be due to severe stress, may also cause chest pains that are similar to cardiac chest pains.
Heart related chest pain usually occurs after some exertion or exercise (heavy lifting, straining, walking stairs, running, etc.). There may be a sharp or pressure pain. With radiation to the left arm, sweats, shortness of breath and even nausea. It usually improves after resting and can resolve in 5-10 minutes.
Gastrointestinal chest pain usually occurs without exertion, can occur at night or at rest. It is usually of longer duration. It may radiate to the left arm, however, since the same nerves that go to the heart may be stimulated.
Gastroscopy may be helpful to rule out esophageal ulcers, esophagitis, infection, tumor, gastritis or ulcers. Treatment is available for all of these causes, as well as for esophageal spasm.