I've dealt on and off with back pain since I was a teenager, and recently it has gotten worse. In fact, it feels like the pain is pushing forward into my chest. Is that even possible? Or, instead, does that mean that what I have isn't back pain at all, but a deeper problem?
Both back pain and chest pain can be signs of an underlying illness or condition that should be addressed by a physician. For symptoms that are either recurrent or are new, it is usually best to pursue evaluation by a primary care physician who can take a thorough history and then direct any further testing or specialist consultations.
Back pain can be very difficult to evaluate, since conditions involving the muscles, bones, lung, blood vessels, heart, and sometimes even the abdominal organs can manifest with back pain or discomfort.
A common cause of back pain in adults is some sort of impingement of the nerves leaving the spinal column. This can cause sharp, shooting pain that may be felt in the neck, shoulders, down the arms, or radiating into the chest. Similarly, a muscle strain or sprain can also cause symptoms that start in the back and then involve other parts of the body.
Bronchitis, pneumonia, or a collapsed lung can also be felt in the back and the front of the chest. The same can be true of the pain that is felt from certain heart problems or an aortic aneurysm. However, all of these conditions are usually associated with other symptoms and are not something that comes and goes over a long period of time.
Abdominal complaints can also manifest as back pain. Reflux disease can start in the teen years and will often come and go. This sensation can be felt in the back and the chest. The same is also true of stomach ulcers. Similarly, it is possible to have a hernia in the diaphragm which allows a part of the stomach to move from the abdominal into the chest cavity. This condition can also cause what may be interpreted as back pain.
Because there are so many different things that can cause back/chest pain, it is always best to have such complaints evaluated by a physician.
This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.
If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under ZocDoc’s Terms of Service.