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Author Topic: Pain/Tightness/Pressure Below Sternum?!?  (Read 228866 times)

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Offline Shea

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Pain/Tightness/Pressure Below Sternum?!?
« on: May 22, 2008, 01:00:08 PM »
I've had this on and off for about three years (so I'm assuming it's not life-threatening, even though it feels like it sometimes!). And I've been to several doctors and had a plethora of medical tests - all normal. In addition to all my other weird symptoms (foggy-head, vibrations, tingling, neck stiffness, hot flashes, etc.), almost every day I have a pain/pressure/tightness feeling in my chest, located beneath the sternum, like in the center of my breasts but down a couple inches. I keep thinking it's my diaphragm or something wrong with a bone in that area or a vital organ. It often feels like I can't get a deep breath and very suffocating. Sometimes, it's so severe that the sensation runs all the way up my neck to behind my ears! Feels like someone is strangling me. Yet, all my tests came back flawless?!? Well, I do not FEEL flawless!  :(

Please help me... Does anyone else suffer through this? Have you found anything that helps? Do you think there really is something wrong or is it just anxiety?

P.S. One test that I took (GI series, barium swallow - yuck!) did show that I have "mild to moderate GERD/acid reflux," but the GI doctor said that it wouldn't be causing myself symptoms. I have no burning or heartburn at all, and it doesn't just happen after I eat - it happens on and off whenever! I did try Zantac (acid reflux OTC med) for two weeks, just to see if it would help. It did not. It seems to feel a little better when I massage the area, stretch, lie down flat or lean forward. What the HECK IS THIS???
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Offline Xalatimo

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Re: Pain/Tightness/Pressure Below Sternum?!?
« Reply #1 on: May 22, 2008, 03:29:03 PM »
You're right its been 3 years and if it is anything at all it is probably something minor.  Did you ever get an x-ray
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Offline Shea

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Re: Pain/Tightness/Pressure Below Sternum?!?
« Reply #2 on: May 23, 2008, 09:39:35 PM »
You're right its been 3 years and if it is anything at all it is probably something minor.  Did you ever get an x-ray

An X-ray? Um ... yeah, 13 of them. LOL Had two chest X-rays and multiple X-rays of my back/lumbar/thoracic/cervical, from all different angles. X-rays in addition to:

blood work (multiple times)
EKG (twice)
GI series (barium swallow)
brain MRI
Ab ultrasound
stress test
echocardiogram

...and I think that's it. LOL
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Offline niteriders1

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Re: Pain/Tightness/Pressure Below Sternum?!?
« Reply #3 on: August 07, 2008, 05:33:54 AM »
I have had the same problems as you. I went through barium swallow,endoscopy,colonoscopy,ultrasounds,x-rays,blood test, ekg's,holter monitor and a stress test. They  found acid reflex/gerd and they also found diverticulosis. I am taking nexium for my stomach troubles but i still have the chest pains which everything came back fine and the doctor's said it's just plain anxiety.
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Offline Shea

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Re: Pain/Tightness/Pressure Below Sternum?!?
« Reply #4 on: August 07, 2008, 09:55:34 PM »
I have had the same problems as you. I went through barium swallow,endoscopy,colonoscopy,ultrasounds,x-rays,blood test, ekg's,holter monitor and a stress test. They  found acid reflex/gerd and they also found diverticulosis. I am taking nexium for my stomach troubles but i still have the chest pains which everything came back fine and the doctor's said it's just plain anxiety.

Thanks so much for your post. They told me I had "GERD" as well when I had the barium swallow test. I put quotes around "GERD" because I don't believe it's that big of a deal as they make it seem. The reason: The pharmaceutical companies are making billions by selling GERD drugs. Ten, 20 years ago, no one had GERD.  It's a fad diagnosis. If you look at the history of medicine, you'll see that this happens all the time. Years ago, it was all about hysterectomies. A female has a slight problem or a cramp, "oh you need to have a hysterectomy!" Now, they're all regretting it and have to take hormones because of it - which, in turn, cause a whole other bout of side effects. Sure, everyone has a little acid reflux from time to time, but medication isn't always necessary - although the doctors will try to make one think otherwise. What they don't tell you is that most acid reflux can be combated with dietary/lifestyle changes. But, no, you have a barium swallow and oh my god guess what? You have (gasp) GERD! You need medication! No.

This is not to say that there aren't cases of serious GERD/acid reflux out there. I'm not saying that at all. I'm merely pointing out the fact that doctors blow things way out of proportion and are often too quick to whip out their prescription pad.

At any rate, they told me my barium swallow test show "mild to moderate GERD" and I was prescribed Aciphex. Took it for a few weeks. No difference whatsoever. And that was the end of that.
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Offline Pan

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Re: Pain/Tightness/Pressure Below Sternum?!?
« Reply #5 on: August 07, 2008, 10:08:13 PM »
Funny thing this Shea.

As you are aware all my physical anxiety sensations have been totally centered on neurological issues/sensations for the last year.  About 6 weeks ago these stopped dead totally out of the blue and have been replaced with a tight chest...it is like a feeling of pressure on my chest and like a constant dull ache deep in there, this feeling can also radiate right across the chest or can be located in a specific spot.  I am also having problems with my breathing and seem to find it hard to get a deep and satifying breath, I am also now wheezy and coughing more than usual.

Along with this I am also getting acid reflux and also stomach issues which involve constant 24/7 low level nausea and also what feel like hunger pains with a gurgling belly...this persists even after I have eaten.  My appetite is fine.

So yes, anxiety can cause all this.  What is really weird for me is that there is a huge psychological reason as to why my symptoms should shift and I literally went overnight from twitching and buzzing to all this new stuff.  My GP has assured me that everything I am experiencing (and therefore you) is classic anxiety and the way it has presented is also a classic case of physical stress coupled with somatisation disorder.

Funny old thing this anxiety, it will often change it's disguise to keep you on your toes :spineyes:

edit: and don't get me started on the farting and burping, is driving Mrs Pan potty!
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Offline Shea

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Re: Pain/Tightness/Pressure Below Sternum?!?
« Reply #6 on: August 09, 2008, 04:09:24 PM »
Funny thing this Shea.

As you are aware all my physical anxiety sensations have been totally centered on neurological issues/sensations for the last year.  About 6 weeks ago these stopped dead totally out of the blue and have been replaced with a tight chest...it is like a feeling of pressure on my chest and like a constant dull ache deep in there, this feeling can also radiate right across the chest or can be located in a specific spot.  I am also having problems with my breathing and seem to find it hard to get a deep and satifying breath, I am also now wheezy and coughing more than usual.

Along with this I am also getting acid reflux and also stomach issues which involve constant 24/7 low level nausea and also what feel like hunger pains with a gurgling belly...this persists even after I have eaten.  My appetite is fine.

So yes, anxiety can cause all this.  What is really weird for me is that there is a huge psychological reason as to why my symptoms should shift and I literally went overnight from twitching and buzzing to all this new stuff.  My GP has assured me that everything I am experiencing (and therefore you) is classic anxiety and the way it has presented is also a classic case of physical stress coupled with somatisation disorder.

Funny old thing this anxiety, it will often change it's disguise to keep you on your toes :spineyes:

edit: and don't get me started on the farting and burping, is driving Mrs Pan potty!

Oh, I hear ya! Yes, anxiety can definitely change its disguise and keep us on our toes. Absolutely! I'm finding that out more and more. But lately, I've taken on a new attitude. So, now when I have anxiety symptoms, instead of thinking brain tumor ... heart disease ... cancer ... etc. I'm more like, "Eh ... OK, whatever." And then I emerge myself into a task (anything) that keeps me busy and distracted.

That said, I will add that I've been getting headaches a lot lately - like almost every single day. They're not terribly bad headaches, more of a low-grade, constant dull neck ache that radiates into my brain stem area (low back area of the head). I've never been one to suffer from headaches, so this is something entirely new to me. And it's annoying as hell and a little worrisome (I'd be lying if I said I wasn't at all concerned). I keep telling myself it's probably allergy/tension/stress related ... but there's that little itty-bitty teensey-weensey voice that isn't gone 100 percent yet that's whispering: "You have a small brain tumor. So small that when you had your MRI two years ago, it didn't show up."

I wonder if it was caused by something horrible like that if Advil and massage would still help? The reason I'm asking is because those two things give me relief. I'd have even more relief if I knew that those two things wouldn't help if the headaches were caused by a brain tumor ... 'cause then I'd know I don't have one.

ARGH! Anxiety, I HATE you.
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Offline Pan

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Re: Pain/Tightness/Pressure Below Sternum?!?
« Reply #7 on: August 09, 2008, 04:26:36 PM »
Funny thing this Shea.

As you are aware all my physical anxiety sensations have been totally centered on neurological issues/sensations for the last year.  About 6 weeks ago these stopped dead totally out of the blue and have been replaced with a tight chest...it is like a feeling of pressure on my chest and like a constant dull ache deep in there, this feeling can also radiate right across the chest or can be located in a specific spot.  I am also having problems with my breathing and seem to find it hard to get a deep and satifying breath, I am also now wheezy and coughing more than usual.

Along with this I am also getting acid reflux and also stomach issues which involve constant 24/7 low level nausea and also what feel like hunger pains with a gurgling belly...this persists even after I have eaten.  My appetite is fine.

So yes, anxiety can cause all this.  What is really weird for me is that there is a huge psychological reason as to why my symptoms should shift and I literally went overnight from twitching and buzzing to all this new stuff.  My GP has assured me that everything I am experiencing (and therefore you) is classic anxiety and the way it has presented is also a classic case of physical stress coupled with somatisation disorder.

Funny old thing this anxiety, it will often change it's disguise to keep you on your toes :spineyes:

edit: and don't get me started on the farting and burping, is driving Mrs Pan potty!

Oh, I hear ya! Yes, anxiety can definitely change its disguise and keep us on our toes. Absolutely! I'm finding that out more and more. But lately, I've taken on a new attitude. So, now when I have anxiety symptoms, instead of thinking brain tumor ... heart disease ... cancer ... etc. I'm more like, "Eh ... OK, whatever." And then I emerge myself into a task (anything) that keeps me busy and distracted.

That said, I will add that I've been getting headaches a lot lately - like almost every single day. They're not terribly bad headaches, more of a low-grade, constant dull neck ache that radiates into my brain stem area (low back area of the head). I've never been one to suffer from headaches, so this is something entirely new to me. And it's annoying as hell and a little worrisome (I'd be lying if I said I wasn't at all concerned). I keep telling myself it's probably allergy/tension/stress related ... but there's that little itty-bitty teensey-weensey voice that isn't gone 100 percent yet that's whispering: "You have a small brain tumor. So small that when you had your MRI two years ago, it didn't show up."

I wonder if it was caused by something horrible like that if Advil and massage would still help? The reason I'm asking is because those two things give me relief. I'd have even more relief if I knew that those two things wouldn't help if the headaches were caused by a brain tumor ... 'cause then I'd know I don't have one.

ARGH! Anxiety, I HATE you.

I think that is the key Shea.

My thoughts are that chronic physical anxiety becomes a habit that is both mental and physical.  Over a period of time I believe that for various issues are minds come to the conclusion that they would rather keep up the weird and wonderful physical sensations rather than giving us insight into the real nature of our condition.

With this in mind, it would be totally pointless for our minds to generate sensations they do not worry us, this is why symptom shifting is such a key aspect of anxiety disorders.  Anxiety can only survive and then flourish in a fearful mind and body and if we react to specific sensations with fear then our minds latch onto this and realise that it is having the desired effect.

You see so many people who suffer from symptom shifting and also shifting from worrying about one disease to another, there are reasons for this and it is classic anxiety ridden behaviours.
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Offline Shea

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Re: Pain/Tightness/Pressure Below Sternum?!?
« Reply #8 on: August 09, 2008, 04:50:26 PM »
Funny thing this Shea.

As you are aware all my physical anxiety sensations have been totally centered on neurological issues/sensations for the last year.  About 6 weeks ago these stopped dead totally out of the blue and have been replaced with a tight chest...it is like a feeling of pressure on my chest and like a constant dull ache deep in there, this feeling can also radiate right across the chest or can be located in a specific spot.  I am also having problems with my breathing and seem to find it hard to get a deep and satifying breath, I am also now wheezy and coughing more than usual.

Along with this I am also getting acid reflux and also stomach issues which involve constant 24/7 low level nausea and also what feel like hunger pains with a gurgling belly...this persists even after I have eaten.  My appetite is fine.

So yes, anxiety can cause all this.  What is really weird for me is that there is a huge psychological reason as to why my symptoms should shift and I literally went overnight from twitching and buzzing to all this new stuff.  My GP has assured me that everything I am experiencing (and therefore you) is classic anxiety and the way it has presented is also a classic case of physical stress coupled with somatisation disorder.

Funny old thing this anxiety, it will often change it's disguise to keep you on your toes :spineyes:

edit: and don't get me started on the farting and burping, is driving Mrs Pan potty!

Oh, I hear ya! Yes, anxiety can definitely change its disguise and keep us on our toes. Absolutely! I'm finding that out more and more. But lately, I've taken on a new attitude. So, now when I have anxiety symptoms, instead of thinking brain tumor ... heart disease ... cancer ... etc. I'm more like, "Eh ... OK, whatever." And then I emerge myself into a task (anything) that keeps me busy and distracted.

That said, I will add that I've been getting headaches a lot lately - like almost every single day. They're not terribly bad headaches, more of a low-grade, constant dull neck ache that radiates into my brain stem area (low back area of the head). I've never been one to suffer from headaches, so this is something entirely new to me. And it's annoying as hell and a little worrisome (I'd be lying if I said I wasn't at all concerned). I keep telling myself it's probably allergy/tension/stress related ... but there's that little itty-bitty teensey-weensey voice that isn't gone 100 percent yet that's whispering: "You have a small brain tumor. So small that when you had your MRI two years ago, it didn't show up."

I wonder if it was caused by something horrible like that if Advil and massage would still help? The reason I'm asking is because those two things give me relief. I'd have even more relief if I knew that those two things wouldn't help if the headaches were caused by a brain tumor ... 'cause then I'd know I don't have one.

ARGH! Anxiety, I HATE you.

I think that is the key Shea.

My thoughts are that chronic physical anxiety becomes a habit that is both mental and physical.  Over a period of time I believe that for various issues are minds come to the conclusion that they would rather keep up the weird and wonderful physical sensations rather than giving us insight into the real nature of our condition.

With this in mind, it would be totally pointless for our minds to generate sensations they do not worry us, this is why symptom shifting is such a key aspect of anxiety disorders.  Anxiety can only survive and then flourish in a fearful mind and body and if we react to specific sensations with fear then our minds latch onto this and realise that it is having the desired effect.

You see so many people who suffer from symptom shifting and also shifting from worrying about one disease to another, there are reasons for this and it is classic anxiety ridden behaviours.

Oh, yes. Great post. Very well said. You make a lot of sense. I totally agree.

However...

For me, it's the not knowing that kills me. And people say, "But you do know. You've been told all your tests are fine and it's probably anxiety." Key word: probably. That's what bothers me and, frankly, scares the crap out of me. I feel like the doctors can't find anything wrong - and we know how doctors and tests miss stuff all the time (it's not uncommon) - so they just say "it's probably anxiety" because they don't have a concrete diagnosis to give me.

So, I go 'round and 'round in circles with myself. And especially when I have these weird sudden headaches and I have trouble focusing my vision sometimes ... well, yeah, that's scary.
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Offline Xalatimo

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Re: Pain/Tightness/Pressure Below Sternum?!?
« Reply #9 on: August 09, 2008, 05:57:14 PM »
But when does it end?  You could also get into a fatal car accident.  A runaway bull could charge into your house.  You could get struck by lightning.  Do we really have any guarantees in this world?  The doctors very well -could- have missed something, but is it really worth it to worry about it?  How come you don't worry about all the other scenarios?  You having anything other than anxiety is just as rare, especially after the amount of testing you've had.  I bet laboratory rats don't even go through this much testing.  It's like having your life on hold waiting for the winning lottery ticket one day; ain't gonna happen. 

The bottom line is that most likely you''ll never be able to get an answer with 100% certainty.  Unfortunately that's life.  Much of recovering from anxiety has to do with being able to accept this.  You're doing a much better job of this lately.  Of course, you're never going to know for sure.  Diagnosing anxiety is not an exact science.  You just have to get fed up with worrying and assume it is.  After three years if it was anything bad, you would have known.  You probably love your parents, yes?  Would a doctor be able to prove this with 100% certainty?  So does that mean you don't love them?  There are some things you just have to accept despite not being given any concrete evidence.   The problem is that unless you come to this realization, your anxiety will just keep creating more and more symptoms and you're going to be stuck in the same loop forever.  Take your headache for example.  You have a headache for a couple days and you're starting to think brain tumor.  You should be able to quickly realize that this is just anxiety clouding your views and discard these thoughts.  Maybe you aren't sleeping well lately.  Maybe you have a lot of tension.  Allergies?  Haven't been eating properly? 

Eventually I was able to get to the point where I just stopped giving a damn if it was a brain tumor or not.  Resting in peace is a lot better than worrying about having a brain tumor all my life -- that's how I look at it.   But I do think you're doing a lot better lately.  Everyone has minor setbacks from time to time -- try not to get too caught up in this brain tumor scare.  Remember, you have anxiety.  Always keep that in mind.  You don't have a brain tumor you have a condition that makes you think you have one.  This is what you have to assume because you can't worry about things of that nature and still have peace of mind, otherwise you'd have to sandbag your house, go outside wearing a bulletproof vest, etc.  Not good.  Life is to be enjoyed.  Every second we live should be focused on the present and what we have not what might go wrong.  Good luck Shea.  You've been making progress -- keep it up.
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