The contributing factors for pain under the left breast range from trauma to the rib cage, infections, hiatal hernia, flatulence, gastritis, to the conditions associated with the heart and the lungs. The following write-up provides information on these medical conditions.
The medical conditions that could cause pain under the left breast could be muscular, gastrointestinal, or cardiac in nature. A traumatic injury to the left side of the chest could cause inflammation of the bones, muscles, ligaments, or cartilage in the chest cavity, which in turn may give rise to pain. The heart, as well as lungs are located in the chest cavity, which is why conditions associated with these organs could cause pain and a host of other symptoms. Pain could even be referred from the organs located in the left upper quadrant of the abdomen. The nature of the pain and the accompanying symptoms can provide the doctors with clinically significant information that can help them identify the underlying cause of pain.
Pain below the left breast could be caused by a wide range of reasons including:
Blunt force trauma to the chest cavity could cause inflammation of the intercostal muscles, which are muscles located between the ribs. The ribs or the breastbone could get bruised or may develop cracks due to a fall, motor vehicle accident, or crush injury. Pain could occur due to overstretching of the intercostal muscles in the chest region. Performing exercises or activities that involve rapid twisting of the torso could cause an intercostal muscle strain, which may cause pain in and around the rib cage.
Costochondritis, which is also referred to as chest wall pain, is a medical condition that is characterized by the inflammation of costal cartilages that join the ends of the ribs to the breastbone. Repeated trauma to the chest wall could cause costochondritis. The costochondral junctions could also become inflamed due to a viral, bacterial, or fungal respiratory infection. Since the intercostal muscles are involved with breathing, a person affected by inflamed intercostal muscles is likely to experience breathing problems. The affected individuals are likely to experience pain that worsens while coughing, sneezing, or taking deep breaths.
Hernia refers to a medical condition wherein a part of an organ protrudes from a weak spot in the body cavity that holds that organ. A person is diagnosed with hiatal hernia when a part of the stomach protrudes through the esophageal hiatus (a small opening in the diaphragm through which the esophagus passes) into the chest cavity. This may occur if the size of the hiatal opening is larger than normal. Heartburn, which refers to a burning sensation that occurs due to regurgitation of the contents of the stomach to the esophagus, is a characteristic symptom of hiatal hernia. Consumption of fatty food items and carbonated beverages may trigger heartburn. The affected individuals are also likely to experience chest pain, shortness of breath, or bloating after meals.
The term ‘angina pectoris’ refers to a squeezing chest pain or feeling of tightness in the chest that occurs due to reduced supply of oxygenated blood to a part of the heart muscle. People who are affected by coronary artery disease, which is a medical condition that is characterized by reduced blood supply to the heart due to the buildup of plaque within the arterial walls, are likely to experience angina. At times, angina could be associated with coronary artery spasms. High blood pressure, obesity, smoking, alcohol abuse, high cholesterol levels, etc., are some of the risk factors for angina. Angina is one of the most characteristic symptoms of heart problems. Though pain is usually felt under the breastbone, it could spread to the neck, jaw, shoulders, or the back.
The stomach is a muscular organ that is located on the left upper quadrant of the abdomen. Inflammation of the lining of the stomach is medically referred to as gastritis. The lining of the stomach could get inflamed due to infections caused by pathogens. Helicobacter pylori is one of the most common causative agents for gastritis. This bacterium could get transmitted due to the consumption of contaminated food or water. A person affected by gastritis could experience symptoms such as pain in the upper left section of the abdomen, indigestion, bloating, nausea, or vomiting.
Pain in the left upper quadrant of the abdomen may be due to excessive gas in the digestive tract. Aerophagia, which refers to swallowing of air, is one of the risk factors for flatulence. People who often use a straw while having drinks, or eat food fast without chewing it properly, are likely to swallow more air. People who often drink carbonated drinks and talk while eating may also swallow more air. Consumption of certain food items could also lead to excessive gas. At times, gas could also become trapped in the flexures or the bends in the large intestine. Splenic flexure, which is also called left colic flexure, refers to the bend that lies between the transverse colon and the descending colon. A person is diagnosed with splenic flexure syndrome when gas gets trapped in the splenic flexure. Gas that is trapped in the splenic flexure causes pain in the upper abdominal region. Pain from the upper abdominal region could even radiate towards the chest, and may even be mistaken for chest pain.
Conditions Associated with the Lungs
Pleurisy refers to the inflammation of the pleura, which is the membrane that lines the lungs and the inner walls of the chest. A small amount of fluid that is present between the pleural membranes acts as a lubricant and helps the lungs to move smoothly during inhalation and exhalation. The pleura could get inflamed due to trauma, respiratory infections, or exposure to certain harmful chemicals or toxins. Pneumonia (lung infection) and pneumothorax (pressure on the lung due to the accumulation of air in pleural space) are both medical conditions that may cause chest pain that worsens with movement. Pain could also worsen while coughing or taking deep breaths. If the left lung is affected by any of these conditions, the affected individual could experience pain that may radiate from the lung to the region under the left breast
Since pain in and around the chest could be caused by various medical conditions, medical help must be immediately sought by a person who has been experiencing pain below the left breast. Doctors usually analyze the patient’s medical history and conduct a physical examination and various diagnostic procedures to zero in on the underlying cause. The treatment options would vary, depending on the medical condition responsible for causing the pain. Though drug therapy coupled with lifestyle changes can prove beneficial, doctors may recommend surgery in case of severe traumatic injuries or medical conditions that don’t resolve with conservative treatment options.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.