Pain Under Left Breast: Causes, Treatments, and When to See a Doctor
The cause of pain under your left breast can range from a minor ailment like too much gas to a life-threatening condition like a heart attack. Knowing the exact cause of pain in your chest or upper abdomen can be difficult to find. Usually, the type of pain under your left breast can be an indication as to the cause of the discomfort in your upper abdomen.
Sharp, stabbing pains under your left breast could be caused by heartburn, stress, gastritis, or even too much gas. Pain under your breast caused by gastritis can be dull, throbbing pain that feels like something is gnawing at you. Other lower chest pains can be momentary and be sharp and uncomfortable. Squeezing pains that feel like something is pushing on your chest are often heart-related and should never be ignored.
Usually, getting rid of pains in your chest or upper abdomen requires addressing the underlying cause. For example, discomfort under your left breast caused by digestive issues can sometimes be relieved by effective home remedies like ginger, chamomile, or drinking baking soda water. However, cardiac-related pain under your left breast requires professional medical supervision.
In this article, you will find out the many causes of pain under your left breast. At the end of the article, you will learn when the pain in your upper left abdomen is serious enough to call a doctor.
Causes of Pain Under Your Left Breast
A common cause of having sharp, stabbing pains under your left breast is a buildup of gas. Your stomach is located on the upper left of your abdomen just under your breast. Trapped gas in your stomach can feel like an uncomfortable ache under your left breast. In fact, trapped gas anywhere in your intestines or chest area can cause great discomfort until you are able to get rid of it.
Dr. Matthew Hoffman on WebMD explains that gas can cause swelling in the intestines resulting in bloating and pain in the abdomen. Dr. Hoffman also says that gas can cause chest pain but that the pain should go away fairly quickly.1 Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that as well as causing jabbing, sharp pains, gas can cause cramping and a knotted feeling in your abdomen.2
There are many effective home remedies to help get rid of gas and bloating. For example, chamomile tea can help soothe your digestive system and prevent gas building up. Ginger is also a great herb with many health benefits and can help to get rid of excessive gas.
Another digestive problem that can cause discomfort and pain under your left breast is heartburn. If stomach acid escapes back up your esophagus, it will cause a burning sensation in your chest after eating which can often be felt under your breast.
According to Dr. David T. Derrer on WebMD, heartburn can cause severe pain in your chest. The discomfort of heartburn will often cause sharp pains just below the breast or ribs. Dr. Derrer advises that heartburn pain doesn’t usually radiate to the shoulder, neck, or arms.3
Because it can be difficult to tell the difference between heartburn and a heart attack, you should always see a doctor for any unexplained chest pains.
You can treat heartburn naturally with baking soda. The alkaline effect of baking soda helps to reduce your stomach acid and relieve the heartburn pain and discomfort under your left breast. All you need to do is mix 1/2 – 1 teaspoon baking soda with a glass of water.
For more practical remedies for heartburn, please read my article about the most effective home treatments for heartburn.
Squeezing pains under your left breast could be a sign of serious heart problems. Your heart is found in the middle of your chest, slightly to the left and heart-related chest pains are generally felt on the left-hand side.
Cardiovascular diseases can affect the heart and result in narrowed or blocked arteries. You will feel pain on the left side of your chest if the blood supply to your heart is weak or stops altogether. This can cause angina pain or be one of the signs of a heart attack.
Heart attack chest pain can actually start out as mild pain or discomfort. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the chest pain can then become more severe and intense and may come and go over several hours.4 The pain usually radiates to the upper part of your abdomen, your arms, shoulder, and/or jaw.
Angina also causes pain on the left side of your chest and can be felt just below your breast. Angina pain also causes a feeling of pressure or squeezing in your chest. According to the American Heart Association, angina can be caused by high blood pressure, being overweight, or having an unhealthy diet.5 Angina can also be a sign that you have poor blood circulation.
There are many easy lifestyle choices that have health benefits for your heart and can help improve circulation. Some of these are getting regular exercise, enjoying a healthy, well-balanced diet, and quitting smoking.
Pericarditis is another heart-related condition that can cause dull aching chest pains and discomfort in your left upper abdomen. Your heart is protected by a fluid-filled sac called the pericardium. Bacterial or viral infections can cause the sac to become inflamed, resulting in pain on the left side of your chest.
Doctors from the National Health Service say that pericarditis causes many people to experience sudden, sharp pains behind their breastbone. The pain often spreads to your left shoulder and neck and is worse when coughing or sneezing.6
If you have a fever along with pains under your left breast, you should visit your doctor for an examination.
You may experience severe pains on the left side of your chest under your breast if you have a hiatal hernia. Your hiatus is located in your chest just behind your left breast. Its function is to stop food going back up your esophagus.
For many people, the only symptom of a hiatal hernia is a burning sensation in their chest. However, according to The British Hernia Centre, hiatal hernias can cause pain that is so severe that many people think they are having a heart attack.7
Usually, hiatal hernias don’t require any treatment. However, the British Hernia Centre recommends making positive lifestyle choices to manage the symptoms of hiatal hernias. For example, to avoid chest discomfort, you should avoid lying down immediately after consuming food or drink.7
Gastritis can cause abdominal discomfort and pain just under your left breast. Inflammation and irritation of your stomach lining can be caused by Helicobacter pylori bacteria or infections. This can cause you to feel nauseous after eating, have chronic stomach upset, suffer from indigestion, and have a gnawing feeling in your stomach.
One way to treat Helicobacter pylori infections naturally is to take Manuka honey. Manuka honey has powerful medicinal and antibacterial properties that can help to heal the stomach lining and soothe the pain that stomach infections cause.
We all know that too much stress isn’t good for our general health. Being stressed out could be a contributing factor to pains under your left breast. Actually, stress can cause pains anywhere under your ribs and be the cause of many other health issues.
Dr. Varnada Karriem-Norwood on WebMD explains that stress causes muscles to tense up resulting in aches and pains in your chest. Some other symptoms of stress are insomnia, frequent colds, and digestive problems. Dr. Karriem-Norwood warns that long-term stress can lead to cardiovascular diseases, obesity, and gastrointestinal problems.9
There are many natural ways to help reduce the effect of stress on your body. For example, herbs like ginger, chamomile, bergamot, and lavender all have a relaxing effect on your mind and digestive system. Some herbs also have a pain-relieving effect that can help to get rid of pain under your left breast.
Pain in your chest is commonly felt when you have a panic attack. Panic attacks can cause pain in your chest, and because they are often felt on the left side of the chest, many people mistake them for a heart attack or angina.
The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry reported that many people who attend the emergency department at the hospital with chest pains are actually having a panic attack. For example, panic attacks often cause hyperventilation which can lead to chest pain or spasms in your digestive tract. Also, panic attacks can cause blood pressure to rise and an increased heart rate which puts extra strain on your heart.10
If you suffer from panic attacks, the good news is that they are treatable. To help treat the root cause of panic attacks to prevent pain under the left breast, it’s important to manage stress and anxiety properly. Please read my article on the top essential oils for relieving anxiety, stress, and depression to find out how to get rid of the symptoms of panic attacks.
Many people who have pleurisy complain of severe pain in their ribs under their left breast. Pleurisy is inflammation of the lining surrounding the lungs and can be caused by an infection or lung disease.
According to doctors from WebMD, pleurisy causes sharp, sudden chest pains when you cough, sneeze or move. Usually, pleurisy only affects one side of the chest.11 If the lower part of your left lung is affected by inflammation, then you will experience severe, fleeting pains under your left breast and upper abdomen.
Pneumonia in your left lung could cause stabbing pains in your chest under your left breast. Pneumonia can be caused by viral or bacterial infections in your respiratory tract and is sometimes a complication of the flu or other serious illness.
Dr. Denis Hadjiliadis, who is Associate Professor of Medicine, Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care at Perelman School of Medicine says that among the various symptoms of pneumonia are sharp or stabbing chest pains.12
Dr. Hadjiliadis warns that pneumonia can become a life-threatening condition. You should visit your doctor if your chest pains get worse, you have a persistent fever, or you start coughing up blood.
Any kind of injury to your ribs, nerves, or muscles on the left side of your chest can result in mild to severe pains under your left breast.
For example, the Pain Centre of Maastricht University says that nerve damage to your chest (intercostal neuralgia) can cause sharp, shooting pains around the chest wall.13
Also, any kind of trauma to your left rib cage will cause pain in and around the injured area. Doctors on WebMD say that if a chest injury has caused pain, you should visit your doctor. This is to rule out the possibility that the pain isn’t the result of a fractured rib, damage to your heart muscles, liver, or spleen.14
Many women are concerned that pain under a breast could be a sign of breast cancer. However, according to Cancer Research UK, 90% of breast lumps are not cancerous and breast pain isn’t usually associated with breast cancer.15 Of course if you find a new lump in your breast or have painful breasts, you should always see your doctor.
On rare occasions, pain under your left or right breast is a sign of advanced breast cancer that has spread to the lungs. However, pain under your breast isn’t a sign in itself that breast cancer has spread, as you will have other, more serious symptoms. Cancer Research UK says that these symptoms are coughing up blood, pleurisy, constant chest infections, or breathlessness.16
Pain Under Left Breast – When to See a Doctor
If you have any doubt about the cause of your pain under your left breast, you should see your doctor. Doctors from WebMD say that sudden chest pains and pains that aren’t relieved by home remedies can be indicators or serious health conditions.17
You should see a doctor for pains on your left chest side under your breast if:
- You have a feeling of pressure, tightness, or crushing in the middle of your chest.
- The pain in your upper abdomen spreads to your arms, jaw, or neck.
- You have severe, sudden pains in your upper or lower chest while you are resting.
- The pain under your breast also causes nausea, dizziness, or you have a rapid heartbeat.
- You have a fever and cough up green-colored mucus.
- You can’t get any relief from the pain under your left breast.
Read these related articles:
- Seven Types of Pain You should Never Ignore
- Pain Under Ribs: The Most Common Causes and Treatments
- Causes of Right Side Chest Pain and When You Must See a Doctor
- Left Side Chest Pain: Causes and When to See a Doctor
- WebMD. Can gas cause chest pain?
- MayoClinic. Gas and gas pains.
- WebMD. Heartburn symptoms.
- NHLBI. What are the symptoms of a heart attack?
- Heart. Angina (chest pain).
- NHS. Pericarditis.
- Hernia. Hiatus hernia.
- WebMD. What is gastritis?
- WebMD. Stress symptoms.
- Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry. 2002; 4(2): 54–62.
- WebMD. Pleurisy. Symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.
- MedlinePlus. Pneumonia – adults.
- PIJN. Intercostal neuralgia.
- WebMD. Types of chest injuries.
- CancerResearchUK. Breast cancer symptoms.
- CancerResearchUK. Symptoms of advanced breast cancer.
- WebMD. Chest pain causes.