Neck, upper back and achey, weighty chest pain. Symptoms don't seem to fit anything

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Hi Everyone. I'll be as concise as possible, as there's a lot to write!


37 year old male

bmi just under 25

not physically fit but in otherwise good health


Full blood count: normal

hemogloben: normal

Liver, serum etc checks: normal

Borderline high cholesterol but 'satisfactory' results

Currently awaiting ECG (warned of possible months waiting list)

About 10 days I started to get some intermittent (back of the) neck pain. I've had similar before. What was different about this was how intermittent it was. Usually of course, neck pain is constant and easily triggered by certain movements. This just showed up several times a day, ached for a short while, and then went. I also experienced a dull achey pain in my pectorals (in the breast part rather than the sides). The best way I can describe it, is as if I'd over worked out at the gym (I didn't, I haven't worked out for a very long time!).

3 days later, I had my first 'episode', which was pretty scary. I was just standing still at the time (I'd just gotten up off the sofa, read on for context....), no physical activity etc. It started off with the neck pain, then quickly transitioned into upper back ache and around the shoulder blades, then to my chest. It was a fairly concentrated pressure/dull ache feeling just to the right of my lower sternum. I immediately had to take my belt off as I felt it effecting my breathing. It became intense. I went to lie down and it made it worse instantly, the pain become much more intense and I had to get up almost immediately. The episode lasted about 10-15 minutes. Initially I thought I might have been having a heart attack but I wasn't sweating, wasn't feeling sick and despite being scared, was reasonably calm. I didn't have a temperature. There was no pain down my left side or in either arm. My heart wasn't racing. So it didn't really fit a typical heart attack.

About 4 hours later, the same thing happened again whilst getting up from the sofa, only this time, the pain was much more focused on my chest and was a different type of pain - It felt like someone was pressing down on my entire chest. Like a heavy weight was on it. It spread to the whole of my upper chest. It lasted around 10 minutes.

Since then, I've had an intermittent dull ache in my pectorals. It isn't constant, but more frequent than before. The pain also seems to travel up from my lower sternum up to my esophagus, although I haven't had a cough or sore throat at any point. At times, the uncomfortable pain feels like I have a chest infection, but without the cough/phlegm/sore throat.

Then last night, I had my 3rd episode. Similar to the 2nd. I tried to lie down and once again it instantly made it worse. The pain around my shoulder blades was intense. and into the bottom of the sternum (central). The difference with this episode that my teeth were chattering and i felt cold (it wasn't though, it was 12c outside and reasonably warm in the house).

Tonight, I believe I've found the main trigger. Each episode and most non episode(s), which is just where the neck, upper back and pectoral pain flare up a bit, all happen when I've been sitting/lying back on my sofa for a while. There's no pain at the time, but as soon as I get up, that's when an episode can start almost immediately. We have a recliner, so I can't be sure if it's how my back is arched, or it's to do with having my legs/feet up in more of a lying/semi lying position. I have an office based job, when I'm sitting straight in my office chair all day there's not as much of a problem. It seems to be specific to how I'm sitting on my sofa. When I have an episode, I've realised sitting on the top step of the stairs seems to calm things down quite quickly.

I feel like I've completed the internet in my search for what this could be and I'm in agreement with my GP, who said 'it doesn't fit anything'. She doesn't think it's Angina. Very few conditions have neck, upper back and chest pain together as I've described, and those that do always describe sharp pains and pains down the arm. I have neither. This is very dull and achey, with a weight like feeling on my chest during episodes. I 'may' have had some heart flutters, I can't be sure. My GP did all the normal checks, stethoscope etc, BP, all normal.

Thanks for much to anyone that's read all that, I appreciate I've wrote a lot. Does anyone have any ideas what this could be? The closest thing I've found is pericarditis, although that usually has a sharp pain apparently. It does say that some people get the same dull pain that I've experienced.

Other than that, could it be something completely different like a skeletal/spine issue?

Any advice on where to look or what to consider would be much appreciated. At the moment, I'm just worried something bad might happen whilst I'm waiting potentially months for an ECG.

Thanks again to anyone that's had the patience to read all of this. I wish you all good health.


0 likes, 2 replies

2 Replies

  • Posted

    I've noticed that people often get asked how they got on if they don't get a response, and if anyone is reading this i hope this may help.

    It turns out it was a heart attack. Not a hollywood one of crushing pain in the left arm, collapsing and waiting for an ambulance. But as described above.

    The episodes got more and more frequent to the point of just going up the stairs would trigger it. In hindsight I think I should have been sent straight to hospital by my GP. Furthermore, I don't think she did the right blood tests either, it really should have been an enzyme one like they did in hospital. The ECG came through in 2 weeks, which was fortunate in the end. I had another episode on the morning of the ECG and the nurse conducting the ECG persuaded me to head straight to A&E (for 11 hours....).

    Further ECG's were then all over the place. Blood test showed my heart in distress (enzymes). A few scans later I was in for an emergency Angioplasty with 3 stents as 2 coronary arteries were heavily blocked.

    I feel unlucky and lucky at the same time. I can hardly believe it happened to me in my age/ the same taken I'm so lucky to be alive, considering the situation.

    The moral of the story, if you have chest pains just don't mess about. You need to be seen immediately and waiting in A&E for 11 hours is a small price to pay in exchange for your life.

    Thanks for reading and I wish you all good health.

  • Posted

    hello , did your doc go down the Pulmonary Embolism road .? the pain is usually between shoulder blades

    and around the upper ribs . It's caused by blood clots in the arteries in the lungs .a CT scan will show them

    treatment is using blood thinners ,which stop the clots from growing ,and stops any more moving in . It was your comment about the pain coming on when you move ,that's when your lungs need oxygen and are

    not getting enough .hence the pains . Anti coagulants work really well if the clots are found .

    Hope this gives you another road to try .Google has loads of good info on this ,,,it's worth a try .

    Try not to stress too much ,,that wont help .It seems that our bodies love stress ,so it can throw more aches and pains . your doc needs a visit .ASAP ,,


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