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Experiencing A Sharp Pain In Your Chest?

Sharp chest pain


Experiencing A Sharp Pain In Your Chest?

Ever have a sharp piercing pain in your chest, usually on the left side under the rib? It causes you to catch your breath, and because of it, you try not to breathe in too much because it’s painful. So you take short breaths and try not to move much. You eventually work up the courage to take a deep breath then you feel a sensation akin to a bubble bursting and the pain is gone.

Many believe that they are having a heart attack when these symptoms occur. While the pain is strong and located in that general area, the condition is not a heart attack, nor is it heart related.

What is it?

The Intercostal Muscle

The Intercostal Muscle

It’s called Precordial Catch Syndrome ( or PCS for short) and it’s the most common cause of recurring chest pain. Luckily, it’s benign and most people have experienced it at one time or another in their life.

Doctors don’t really know what causes it however, but they believe it to be either related to a pinched nerve or from an intercostal muscle spasm and after release of spasm the pain relieved.

Is Precordial Catch Syndrome dangerous?

While there is no known cure for PCS, PCS is also not believed to be dangerous. Though, what seems like PCS, could possibly turn out to be something more serious. Be on the lookout for these symptoms, as they indicate possibly something more:

  • Chest pain that extends into the left side of the jaw or arm
  • Chest pain that a person describes as a “heavy” feeling
  • Pain that does not improve at least a little after 24 hours of regular doses of ibuprofen
  • Fever
  • Cough, especially a cough that produces phlegm (“flem,” or “flame”)
  • Extreme anxiety with the pain or a feeling of “impending doom”
  • Blueness or paleness of the lips or fingernails
  • An irregular, rapid, or pounding heart rate
  • Marked difficulty breathing or catching one’s breath (different from mild pain with breathing)

Call your doctor’s office right away if any of these symptoms are present with your PCS. They could be indications of a more serious condition.

In the meantime, you can rest assured that the painful, stabbing feeling is completely normal and a minor inconvenience. Just remember, the key to getting rid of the pain quickly is to just work up the courage to take that deep breath.




  1. Cassandra

    May 7, 2013 at 5:59 pm

    I have this problem and have had it for over 10 years. I’m 31 now. This article is SUCH a relief to me because I never know exactly what I had. I would hesitate to go to the hospital and get it diagnosed cause I had a bad feeling doctors would put me on some sort of heart medicine like nitrous glycerin for angina or something. Although often the pain was around my heart, sometimes it wouldn’t be. The would be a month where I wouldn’t have any chest pains and then there would be days where I was getting them constantly. My boyfriend said he figured it was a pinched nerve, but most of the time it was more of a spasm feeling. Sometimes I wondered if it was possible for it to be an air bubble cause it felt like that every once in awhile traveling about slightly. I often wondered if I had heart attacks cause I’d get the heavy chest feeling or the pain on the arm. Only I’ve had them so often that there is no way they were heart attacks and Ive never gone to the emergency room though once I was tempted. I’m soooooo glad there is a name for this condition!!!!!! I am self diagnosed at last. This makes me very happy that its not really a big deal and to just deal with the pain cause it will be over with eventually. Thank you Zidbits, you guys have changed my life and given me peace of mind!

    • rebecca

      October 15, 2014 at 5:49 pm

      I’ve had this few time before, but not like this. I am having pain in my left rib going to my armpit but under it. For an hour I couldn’t breath in or exhale and had to gingerly breathe in and out which didn’t help much. If I move at all I have extreme pain which is even worse when I lay on my back. I have two of the symptoms above in the bullet points – blueness or paleness in few fingers and marked difficulty breathing. Should I go see a doctor?

    • Brandy

      January 20, 2017 at 1:04 am

      Seriously! I’ve called them stress bubble for the last 10 years thinking they were stress related. I would get the arm and shoulder pain too after I’d breathe in alot. This is the first site where someone actually understood. My husband thought I was crazy! I’ve had to call into work once bc of it and almost went to the er when it lasted more than a day once. Those things hurt ugh. Finally took the courage to breathe in hard a few min ago and it’s gone. Boom. So happy I found this.

  2. George z

    May 28, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    I’m 34, a little bit bigger build and I am having chest pains left side kinda under my arm, but not armpit – about two or three inches lower. Kinda as I write this, it started about 36 min ago. And I’m feeling tired. What could this be?

    • Anwar Burden

      October 3, 2014 at 10:31 pm

      There’s a chance you’re have a heart attack if you’re experiencing the pain and having fatigue at the same time.

    • Jock Agnew

      November 30, 2016 at 12:39 am

      Best advice is don’t listen to anyone on the internet. 99 times out of 100 bearable non serious chest pains aren’t a heart attack. Most people that `comment` on health site love to scaremonger and probably are hypochondriacs themselves.

  3. Alexandria

    July 10, 2013 at 11:25 pm

    I’m getting this right now as I’m lying in bed and have had it since before I went into my shower a couple of hours ago I’m stuck on my side because moving is really painful especially if I go on my back there’s a pain in my left arm/shoulder this happens quite often, I’m 16 should I go see a doctor?

  4. Jaime K

    July 21, 2013 at 1:34 am

    I get this as well, and I always just figured it was just one of those things that some people have to deal with. Mine have happened randomly for as far back as I can remember. Never constant enough for me to go to the doctor. When it does happen I just feel a sharp pain usually somewhere within my rib cage and it’ll cause a sharper pain with inhaling/exhaling. Usually lasts about 2 minutes or so and then it’s just gone a quickly as it came. Annoying. I’ve never found anyone else who has had this, so makes me feel better to know I’m not the only one! My dad has a heart disease and due to some complications in pregnancy I’ve had echocardiograms done and everything is normal there. Guess I could mention it to my doc, but I feel relieved to know I’m not alone!

  5. bolaji

    August 5, 2013 at 5:25 am

    I’m only 14, is it natural to have this pain continuously at my age? Could it be stress? Please help me.

  6. Chris

    September 9, 2013 at 8:46 am

    Hi, I’m 17 and quite overweight which is a problem I am working on. The type of pain I am feeling is a sharp piercing pain in my heart / left side of chest under the ribcage. I keep getting them. It comes randomly. I know what PCS feels like. But this pain is different. I don’t feel pain spreading to other parts of my body. I sometimes think it would kill me but not from anxiety. Anyway it keeps coming and breathing does not remove the pain. Reply ASAP please. Kind of worried.

  7. James B

    December 16, 2013 at 5:53 am

    Thank you so much for this article. I’m 35 now and have had these sense I can remember. I’ve tried to describe it the others but they never understand. I have described them as chest or heart bubbles… I’ve gotten now to where I immediately take a deep breath to “pop the bubble” rather suffer from 15-30 mins of short breaths… Once the “pop” occurs I’m fine… It really does take some courage to do it… The pain sucks bad and causes major distress… Anyone else with this problem, just know your not alone. Take that deep breath and get past it and/or “pop the bubble” as I like to describe it.

  8. Leah

    January 1, 2014 at 4:20 am

    The first time I got this was when I was young (I’m now 16) and I was panicking. But my mom told me to relax. I guess I get this from her because she knew what to do, and everyone else doesn’t have any clue of what I’m describing to them when I get caught up by it. It doesn’t bother me much anymore though. I discovered that if I lean back as far as I could, it doesn’t hurt anymore. It also feels pretty good for my back. Maybe instead of inhaling deeply so it “pops”, sit on a stool or some backless chair and bend your upper back backwards. It usually goes away but it’s been bothering me for a few hours, but it’s not bad. I hope my little remedy helps others with this problem.

  9. Jonathan L

    January 9, 2014 at 2:11 pm

    Age 39. Having this just now on and off lately, and have had this since very young (teens). It comes and goes. Feels terrifyingly grave when it happens, but it always goes away. Sometimes a residual pain would linger after what feels like the “bubble pop”. Very happy to find this website!

  10. Joanne

    January 15, 2014 at 4:14 pm

    I’ve had this since I was 8 years old. It just catches you off guard and takes the breath out of you. The older I got I wondered if it was heart attack but I don’t have any of the other serious symptoms. Just the twinge of pain that feels like a bubble from my ribs to my heart. I’m not brave enough to take the huge breath to pop it as it’s blindingly painful. I just keep taking shallow breaths, increasing the air I take in over time until the pain is gone, then I brave the huge breath to check. It is scary when it happens because it’s so out of the blue.

  11. Tab

    March 15, 2014 at 12:00 am

    I have had this for over 15 years now and no one I know has ever understood it. It is so comforting to know I am not the only one who has had this. I get them very rarely, no more than 2x a year. But when they come I now know to lay down and relax. I can usually get rid of it within 5 minutes now just by relaxing and breathing slow.

  12. Kelly

    April 10, 2014 at 1:17 pm

    Lately I’ve been so worried about this problem, plus my husband doesn’t understand when I explain what is happening to me. No one I know does… it’s so uncomfortable. The only thing I can do is to relax and let it pass.

  13. Chloe

    April 21, 2014 at 6:37 pm

    Hah! Omg, I’m 27 and I’ve had these for as long as I can remember. I’m laughing right now because I’m so relieved to finally have a name for it. I’ve always described it to my parents and friends as a chest bubble that I have to pop before I can breathe normally again, but they always seemed to think I was crazy. I know my mom never seemed interested in taking me to a doctor for it when I was little since it never really affected me for long. It just freaked me out. As time went on, I stopped freaking out over it and it just became something I dealt with. “Oh, here’s another one.. *brace yourself, deep breathe* OK, moving on.” I have them way less often now as an adult, but I still have them. I recently wondered if maybe I shouldn’t dismiss them so quickly anymore (even though I’ve been getting them for at LEAST 20 years with no noticeable long term problems) and decided to do a Google search. So glad to have a name for them and know that they’re basically harmless! They still suck, but at least I know that my instinct to take that unpleasant deep breath and “pop the bubble” is correct.

  14. Matthew Long

    June 26, 2014 at 5:34 pm

    I am 19 and I have been getting this pain for about two years… Sometimes it last a few minutes and sometimes it lasts hours or all day. Nothing relaxes the pain, no medicines help it always starts in the middle of my chest and ends up filling my chest, mid-back, and jaw with extreme pain. I don’t know what’s wrong and no doctor has been able to give me an answer or even a thought.

  15. Rickard

    September 28, 2014 at 8:59 am

    I’m forty and I have had this all my life. It happens once a year or so. I’ve never gone to the doctor because although sharp it does feel likes its muscular/lung rather than heart and always gone away after less than 5-10s. Very happy to find the page though! I usually just hold my breath and breath out slowly after a while and do a couple of short breaths.
    I actually view it as a stitch you get from running, which is just cramp in a tiny muscle, if you get a stitch, breath out completely and push your belly out and breath in whilst drawing in the belly. Do this a few times and the stitch is gone as this makes the muscle work and loosen up. It really works.

  16. Jesse Vaudo

    October 3, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    I’m 27 and I started feeling this striking pain in my chest and decided I needed to see if it was serious too. This is a huge relief that it isn’t due to any sort of deteriorating heart condition.

  17. David Chipere

    October 7, 2014 at 1:27 am

    I am having the same problem which started about three weeks ago. I went to see a doctor and took some chest x-rays but my chest was clear with no problems or complications. It really hurts but I guess I just have to relax and hope the pain goes away soon.

  18. Stephen Davies

    October 7, 2014 at 6:32 am


    I have had this random sharp stabbing pain since my early teens or maybe even earlier. I am thirty years old now and have just experienced it whilst cleaning my cooker, it makes me freeze up and I am unable to breathe in, and the more I try the more painful it gets the deeper I breathe in. I have had to thump my chest before now and have nearly passed out. This page is a massive relief to me as I smoke and drink an generally only exercise occasionally these days so I’m ecstatic to hear its just a pinched nerve. :) The worries are over. Thank you very much!

    Party on!

    Ste Davies.

  19. Kim

    October 21, 2014 at 11:25 am

    For the past 10 years, I have been experiencing the same issue of PCS. I would get them every 2-3 months. And every instance would last for up to 2 hours at the most. My doctor told me that poor blood flow can be the cause. He recommend I take a chewable aspirin everyday. I was taking 1 every day for approximately 6 months straight and not once did I get the pain. Last month I stopped taking my aspirins and as you would expect, today I just had an episode. As soon as I took a Beyers chewable aspirin, the pain went away 2 minutes later.

  20. Brad

    November 8, 2014 at 10:52 am

    I have had this sharp pain all my life. I am 20 years old now and I feel its only getting worse. I’ve been to several doctors and they can’t find what’s wrong. The pain is becoming more continuous and more painful each time. Yesterday was the last time it happened. I was visiting my mother and all of a sudden I couldn’t move or breath and the pain was unbearable. My mother said I was whiter then a ghost. Lips were purple. Anyone have any suggestions or ideas on how to figure out how to calm this down? Or what I should do?

  21. Jack

    March 16, 2015 at 6:39 pm

    I’ve had these problem since I was 13 years old (I’m now 20). I’m unsure if it’s triggered by something and I’ve been to numerous doctors about my lungs and heart and had x-rays but they say it’s nothing yet I’m still bothered by it. From time to time it gets much worse. It can cause hours of pain at a time, sometimes causing me to faint. That hasn’t happened in a while however it scares me to think I have angina or asthma or a heart attack or something else. It’s starting to frighten my family and friends that I can’t breathe and that I have to go to the hospital/doctor but it eventually passes. Also, because I’m doing nursing in university I’m starting to think that way again that I will have a heart attack or something because this still hasn’t passed and I continue to worry from time to time. Everything else I’ve read also tells me that it’ll stop (it also used to happen to my dad and it stopped for him however he does have asthma). Is there something I can do to prevent this from happening?

  22. Mike Dandron

    March 23, 2015 at 8:02 pm

    I had this problem last night. It was the worst one I’ve ever had. It felt like a tiny fist with a lot of force behind it trying to escape the left side of my rib cage-under my heart when I finally took the deep breath. The important thing is “DO NOT PANIC”. I didn’t know what it was and threw my body into the most intense panic attack I have ever had. Had to go to the hospital because I thought I was actually dying. The popping was the worst pain I have experienced and I have broken bones, had concussions, cuts, sprains, torn ligaments, etc. Once I inhaled deeply though, the pain was gone, leaving the remnants of the panic attack. I am a 23 year old male and have had this problem before, but never this bad. Remember, slow measured breathing until you are ready for the deep inhale.

  23. Dean

    February 28, 2016 at 9:33 pm

    I get this at least 5 times a week. I’m 15 and I have had it my whole life. I’ve slowly gotten used to it though, haha. ;)

  24. Christian

    September 1, 2016 at 10:10 am

    Dear who ever wrote this article, I want you to know that I more than appreciate this information. I am 18 and for the past few years, I have been experiencing PCS every so often but I never really thought to much about it until between yesterday and today when I had it happen to me 3 times. This was a major relief to my concerns.

    • Marie

      October 6, 2016 at 8:32 am

      Hullo Doctor

      Thanks for this comfort and encouraging advice. also been in the worrying state wondering how to start joining the heart institute. but am now comfortable and i know with God everything is possible.

  25. Kraig

    October 8, 2016 at 3:21 am

    Been having these pains over the last few years and they’ve only ever lasted no more than 5-10 minutes. Always thought I’d better go and get it checked but never got round to it as they don’t happen often enough. Well last night this pain came into my chest again but this time it’s last 8hours through the night. So I thought I’d google the symptoms as I needed to get an idea what it could be and how to make it stop! Well after reading every single comment left on this page (yes every single one in detail and very slowly) I would like to say thank you to you all as I tried all of the above and finally this morning with a mixture of laying down on my right side and relaxing, then plucking up the courage of taking a huge deep breath in I felt the ‘pop’ to my relief! I thought I’d been taking in deep breaths in my previous attempts but obviously not deep enough. When it ‘pops’ you can just tell it’s gone back to normal. Thanks all.

  26. wobbles

    December 3, 2016 at 4:46 pm

    It just happened to me. I’m 25 and it’s my first time experiencing it. A week earlier I was doing some Pilates and felt a certain section of my upper back / spine pop /snap. And now halfway through sleep at 4am I feel a stabbing pain in my heart area (anterior of the previous spine pop/snap) with every exhale. It felt like some part of the bone in the chest area broke off and was stabbing my heart/ muscles around it and I had real fear that exhaling too fast/ deep would cause something to stab through. My heart rate was fast but regular (from being shocked awake from the pain: interestingly my brain incorporated the pain into my dream in the form of a Calvary battle)

    I righted my back flat and straight, put a hand over my heart to massage the area and felt a rumbly sensation pass like you would expect in a hungry tummy. Exhaled to a minimum at first because each exhale brought a stab of pain. I started changing how I inhaled. A deep inhalation focused on expanding the chest area instead of expanding the tummy followed by an exhalation as daringly empty as I could caused 2 surprising things to happen: I felt a bubble like sensation near the spine area aforementioned / could be an interior muscle and this sensation happened when I daringly exhaled as much as I could. This bubble like sensation happened twice in succession and the pain disappeared from my heart area. I also felt a shadow of the pain lingering through the left side of my body especially in the arm and chest region and was dead worried if I had a stroke or heart attack.

    I got up after pain was gone to stretch, especially in my upper torso region, to make sure the pain did not re-occur in any positions at all and a quick stroke test in which I raised my arms, checked for drooping or numbness and recited the alphabet to make sure it wasn’t a damn stroke. Then Google was the next best step. The pain and the popping process took me a total of not longer than 10 minutes and I currently feel like my blood is circulating very well in the chest area with no hitch in my breathing or any recurring pain/ fatigue. The symptoms described in this article is quite close to accurate for me but I’ll definitely follow up with a trip to the doctor’s.

    Some of the comments here are nothing close to being described in the article and do sound like a heart problem. Get checked folks! Especially those with an extended period of discomfort even after correcting the breathing or who don’t feel the key “bubble” as described. Really hope this pain doesn’t turn up frequently as described by some in the comment section!

  27. Caz

    February 2, 2017 at 2:47 am

    Thank you! Finally an explanation for this debilitating and worrying stabbing feeling. Your description of the symptoms is perfect and I’m relieved to finally know what it is.

  28. Ekyl

    February 11, 2017 at 6:56 pm

    Wow, I can’t believe I just found out about this. I’ve experienced it EXACTLY as written in the post, down to the letter. I’m relieved to hear I’m not in danger. I was worried because it’s happened to maybe 5 times in under 48 hours.

  29. Mixie

    February 17, 2017 at 10:54 pm

    I just had this happened to me a minute ago. I’ve had this since I was approximately 8. I was driving my go cart and accidentally crashed into a tree really hurting my chest and it has been happening ever since. Thanks for this though.

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