Chest Tightness
by pbutters, Sep 03, 2007
I have extreme tightness in my chest off and on.  I went to the Doctor and he did an ekg which was normal and said my lungs were perfectly clear. He believes the tightness is stress related and put me on an anti-depressant. I just got out of an extremely stressful situation and yet the tightness in the chest and shortness of breath is back. I am constantly using my albuteral and sometimes an over the counter bronkaid. I also use advair occasionally.
by National Jewish HealthBlank, Sep 13, 2007
Tightness of the chest and shortness of breath can be stress related.  But they can also be symptoms of more serious disease such as coronary artery disease even with a normal EKG and clots to the lung.  You might want to ask your doctor to reevaluate your condition or seek a second opinion.
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Member Comments (7)
by Grailhunter, Sep 03, 2007
I probably shouldn't butt in since your looking for a Doctors response, but I have been dealing with stress related chest tightness for about 6 years now, since my own "highly stressful ordeal" and there is something I wanted to share with you I found out about myself regarding albuterol and other mixtures of inhalation Aerosol's.  The first thing is that you can get dependent on them very easily if your constantly tossing them at something that is more stress related then a strict lung problem.  I have done this many times in these 6 years where my sense of a breathing problem was overdiolation from overuse of my inhalers.  I found that if I could stop myself from useing them for even one day, I would get several following days of a better sense of breathing not useing them.  That one day of not useing them though is a real pain because your lungs are so dependent.  There is also such a thing as overdilation that can occur with overuse where a sense of troubled breathing and chest tightness can potentialy be the bronchial diolator creating the cause and effect.  Essentialy, I think you have your med use backwards when you say your useing the Advair occasionaly and the Albuterol constantly.  The Advair is meant to be used twice a day, regularly.  It takes the Advair a week or two of consistent use before it reaches the improvement level in breathing it is supposed to.  Useing Advair once in awhile is sort of pointless I think.  The Albuterol is intended as a rescue inhaler for when you run into a trigger.  I would suggest you try reverseing your med use.  Use the Advair regularly, morning and night and see if in a couple of weeks this is not helping you to not need to pull out the rescue inhaler constantly.  You might even ask your Doctor for a short prescription for a anti-anxiety med while the anti-depressent is getting to work.  If you take a anti-anxiety med and the chest stress and breathing problem suddenly disapear in 20 or 30 minutes of taking it, or greatly reduce, it will tell you allot about whats going on with your body.    
by magsmom0222, Sep 08, 2007
I too have been having tightness in my chest - breathing problems for months now - since May - its a daily problem.  Doctors put me on two different kinds of meds - said it was bronch infection - inhailer & then steroid inhailer....nothing seems to work = so they decided it was anxiety and gave me meds for that - NOTHING has worked.  I have extreme back pain most days, tired, actually wiped out by the end of my day - no hunger, altho I forece self to eat - I have been under an amount of stress hate my job, no me time - problems with boyfriend - but even on good happy days there is still the pain of breathing - the anti-anxiety meds relax me but don't take away the difficulty to breath...... I have been trying to pin point what is going on - why don't the doctors knwo what it is and will I have to spend the rest of my life feeling like this?  Do you think its a NEW symdrome they know nothing about? Like Ebstein Barr?
by Grailhunter, Sep 09, 2007
Let me take a wild guess and see how I do.  Your job, or whatever it is that you do most of the day puts you in a forward leaning, shoulders rounded, front half of your body compressed position.  This has got your back muscles, and shoulder muscles, stretched out, tight and sore.  The front muscles of your body are shortened and the front often feels tight and compressed because it is.  This also makes the vulnerable to emotional and mental stress because they are already tight.  Essentialy, if I am right, your front to back, back to shoulder, shoulder to neck muscle balance is messed up from working, and spending to much time in compressed, basicaly smothering you, and way to little or none of the activities that make us happy, open us up and keep us ballanced.  The Doctors don't know what it is because even though they know the lungs are essentialy passive in the aspect of breathing, unless they are actualy injured or diseased, and its the diaphram and probably over a dozen other upper body muscles actualy doing the work, its a "its not my job to go there" sort of attitude.  You notice I placed this post here regarding how muscles and upper body tension and structural problems could effect breathing and asked for a response.  Do you see a response?

Okay, so what do you do about it then.  I tell you when I breath the best.  Its when I am swimming.  When your swimming your stretching out and strengthing almost every muscle in your body, and relieveing a ton of stress in the process.  Give it a try if you can fit it into your life on a regular basis.  Make sure you get in a brisk walk every day if possible or at least 4 times a week.  It doesn't have to be a long walk, a mile is plenty, or more if you feel like it.  Make it a brisk walk and keep that posture up straight with your arms swinging lose and natural.  Check into yoga excercises.  Yoga is great for rebalanceing posture and opening you up.  Get one of those excercise balls you see people laying on and rolling back and forth and stretching and opening up the chest and shoulders, so you can use it several times a day to counter whats in your life that is compressing you forward.

Thats about all I can think of for you.  The job and boyfriend you will have to work out another way.  Try the swimming first if you can.  Inside of two weeks I think you will get a preaty clear picture of whats going on.  A whole lot of wrong things going on in your life, and not enough right things pushing back the other way.
by Deedaa, Sep 12, 2007
Thank you for this great advice. Everything you said here makes so much sense. I have the same problems as magsmom, and lots of anxiety which all goes to my chest and upper abdominal area. I have really noticed that being on the computer compresses everything and really does make it all feel worse...sometimes even initiating the pain in the morning, as soon as I sit here. I am so sick of it. I had a lot of deaths in my family in the past few years, and worry so much abouut my health as a result of their illnesses, that I am sure it is anxiety. When I take Klonopin, [anti anxiety med], it does go away...but I hate to keep on taking those and feeling sleepy and unmotivated all the time.

Oh..and about the are right on on that one too. While at my brother's home last summer, I swam for days in his pool, and felt so normal [good] in my muscles were all relaxed and my chest was finally loose and I could breath again like I did at 10!

To magsmom....hope you don't mind me asking...but do you ever have trouble wearing a bra when your chest gets tight?? Sometimes I can't even wear one, as it will feel like it is "choking" me.'s an awful feeling. I'm planning to turn off this computer, (and just use my laptop at the local coffee shops once in a while), and start going to the pool, and take a Ti-Chi class....and my clinic gives a "Mindfullness Meditation" class...which teaches some breathing to breath properly, and how to breath to make yourself relax...I'm thinking of taking that too. It's weird that anxiety can cause your chest to become so darn tight, huh?

Good luck magsmom, and thank you, grailhunter.

by Promethius9594, Sep 12, 2007

I'm not going to pretend to be an authority, but next time you visit your doctor you might want to ask them to look up "sighing respiration disorder" or otherwise (and more commonly) known as "sighing in panic disorder"

I have it.  It's a permanent MENTAL condition, which is why all test show completely healthy lungs.  Medicine won't help.  What it is is a shortness of breath that FEELS like your chest is tight... like you're breathing, but just not getting enough air on each breath.  There's really no cure other than knowing you have it, and the sort of sigh or yawn that people find to get around the fact that they feel like they're not getting enough air is how the disorder gets it's name.  It's often based in stress, though once it becomes manifest, like any other mental disorder, it's often permanent.  

This one isn't that bad though.  Every time i feel it coming on i take a deep breath like a sigh or a yawn, quietly let it out, and remind myself that it's only in my head.  Like i said, check this with your doctor, but it is a viable possibility.
by Grailhunter, Sep 13, 2007
Yes, I used to sigh and yawn allot.  The yawn I got rid of after I got out of the house and got my energy level up and more oxygen into my body.  This was actualy showing up, the low oxygen level in my hemoglobin and hemocrit levels.  It was right on the border of needing to give blood.  My body was making up for poor breathing and lack of activity by raiseing my bloods ability to carry oxygen. After I got myself moving again the hemoglobin and hemocrit dropped right into a very normal range within a month or so.  Which preaty much substantiated that it was not that I couldn't breath, but I had gotten into the pattern of restricting my breathing.  The sighing I still occasionaly do, mainly when I am sitting or driving, so I am still breathing shallow when I am not active.  Interestly enough on what your saying though is that the yawning and sighing was the worst when the anxiety and panic problem was the most active, which would sort of indicate that there is a tendency to either hold back breathing, or hyperventilate on a level that your not even aware your doing it, and then yawning and sighing to pick up on the low oxygen.  I never heard of it described as a mental disorder directly but I have seen the sighing and yawning aspect referenced as part of the symptoms of mental disorders.  Good point though Promethius.