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My experience of precordial catch syndrome

posted Nov 10, 2010 13:22:51 by gardenplant
I first noticed this condition when I was 15, although I had no idea what it was at the time. The way to describe it would be that my heart felt like an empty crisp (chips if you're American) packet resting against a shard of broken glass thinking it was about to tear at anytime. I'm now 30 and only now is the frequency of the "catches" beginning to ease up, much in line with the notion that it's an adolescent condition.

I believe Precordial catch syndrome is linked to stress. I have found that alcohol has helped relieve the severity of the attacks when it has come on for me. Please note I in no way condone alcohol as the solution, only that it has helped ME take my mind off and temporarily calmed me down at the time of the attacks. You may think that alcohol works because it thins your blood and so there's easier blood circulation and that the condition could be linked to this as has been described that people usually have an attack at times when they are inactive, but I can say that in my experience I have experienced it while running, walking, cycling e.t.c., and that also going back to the blood thinner point I have tried aspirin with no effect or relief.

Again I think this condition is more a psychological one although in the end it results in a physical outcome.

For example take Anorexia. People who suffer from this believe they are fat so psychologically they take action to stop eating. It has started out as a mental disorder but pretty soon it will result in a physical one as their stomachs shrink and their muscles waste away. I think the same bears fruit in Precordial catch syndrome that growing up stressed and tense has tightened precordial muscles and thus every now and then they temporarily snag or give the heart a hard time to efficiently pump resulting in the sharp pain.

I would be interested to hear your stories, theories, symptoms and relief methods and maybe together we can work to solve the mystery behind this condition.

Finally, I set up this forum as this website gets 1000 unique visitors a month so do not worry if you think that it's only you and me and a hand full of others that has this condition.
[Last edited Nov 10, 2010 13:43:54]
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57 replies
gardenplant said Jan 04, 2011 21:03:26
Hi Luke,

Thanks for the reply. It's a really good description you gave about the 'bubble wrap'.

The reason I posted that link is I think the name for the sticky valve aspect of your heart condition is called "Mitral Valve Prolapse Syndrome". The guys on that forum have good alternative and natural remedies as well as traditional medicines that they use for their condition (that's where I first read of the Co-Q10 remedy and have found it helps with PCS too).

I think there are better websites out there for Mitral Valve Prolapse syndrome that's just the first one I came across. I know you said that the sticky valve thing can't be stopped but I think if your case is severe enough they can physically operate on you, I just can't remember what they do now but something along the lines of adjust the shape of your valve by either adding something synthetic or cutting away to correct it's shape and thus correct the function.

Glad to see you've checked back to the site. If there's any questions you want me to add to the questionnaire on this site that you think would be relevant, just add it to the "suggestions" section of this forum and I'll add it.

laurahiiragizawa said Jan 20, 2011 12:09:18
Wow! You have no idea how happy it makes me to know others get this too!
I'm only 17 but I've had this silly PCS for as long as I can remember. The fact that even my doctor was never sure what it was had always made me nervous, but I'm so relieved now. It happened really bad in class a couple of times and afterwards I tried to explain the feeling to everyone, but no one could relate at all! They were all looking at me like I was the biggest drama queen they'd ever seen. *sigh* worst day ever.
Googling illnesses isn't as bad as everyone makes out hey? I don't feel so alone now!
sincityseth said Jan 26, 2011 22:25:52
I've had PCS since I was a small child. I'm 33 years old now and it's pretty much gone now. I will occasionally still get that pain but it's really rare now.

When I was younger the pain was intense and would usually stop me in my tracks. Exhaling was the worst. Taking in a deep breath and holding it in usually helped.

It's nice to read other people's stories.
muttdoc said Mar 04, 2011 22:48:34
I've always wondered about this. My mom took me to the Dr when I was 8 -- she decided it wasn't a heart or heartburn problem; called it growing pains. In my mind that was a good thing -- my chest size was way behind the other girls! I'm almost 40; guess the Dr was wrong.
I experience episodes lasting days to weeks, where I feel the pain several times a day. The pain may cover just one inhalation, or last about 2 minutes. The episodes have been very infrequent in the last 10 years. I wound up here, however, because of a rather severe episode over the last 2 weeks. It's especially worrisome because I lost my mom a few years ago to a pulmonary embolism. But then I got to thinking -- it shouldn't be pain just inhaling if there were a clot, right? Yesterday I resolved that I would call the Dr. today (just couldn't fit it in yesterday). Wouldn't you know, as I monitor each breath, no pain today! So no Dr visit, but I thought I would at least check in with "Dr Google." Thank you.
One thought -- I really loaded up on ibuprofen yesterday. Part because of a sinus headache and sore throat, part because of a rather aggressive teeth cleaning/scraping. Maybe the ibuprofen helped?
And a question. As I look back, I think I recall occasional episodes of RIGHT-sided pain. Has anyone experienced that, along with the other classic symptoms of PCS?
muttdoc said Mar 05, 2011 03:50:49
My understanding of the mitral valve vs. dentist issue is that a large amount of bacteria is liberated during a dental cleaning. It's usually removed by the dentist or by swallowing as you mentioned, but some does get into the bloodstream through the gums. People with mitral valve and some other heart problems can have such a disruption of blood flow dynamics within the heart that they are at much higher risk for a bacterial endocarditis developing (infection of the lining of the heart or the valves). The dentist would need to know so that antibiotics can be prescribed, as well as devising a safe plan for anesthesia or other pain management for other dental procedures. I don't think the heart would care about the blood you swallowed during the dental (unless it was a life-threatening amount) -- it just goes to your stomach and gets digested as protein and minerals.
I can't say for sure that I didn't have a liver problem back when I had right-sided discomfort upon breathing in -- and I'm not exactly sure when that was. But, thankfully, I know that I haven't had liver problems in the last 12 yrs or so, having been monitored for other medical problems.
I'll definitely bring up PCS to my doc the next time I see him.
ATB said Mar 17, 2011 01:19:16
Hi Everyone

I've suffered from PCS for many years and only recently I knew what it was that I had. As you would all agree, without knowing what it is, it is actually quite a frightening pain. I had chest xrays and other tests but they never showed anything.

I think i started getting PCS when I got Shingles as a teenager which effects the nervous system in your body. Has anyone else had shingles?

I often get it lying in bed or sitting down. Sometimes driving which can be quite difficult to deal with at the time.

Stress is definitely a trigger with me. I used to get it around exam time when I was studying. What was interesting, is that I'm not a stressed out person. I rarely feel mentally stressed but my PCS acts up around times of pressure (I also get mouth ulcers which often coincides with bouts of PCS). In my head I feel fine, but in my chest I feel the pain...

I have suffered it quite badly this week, however since I've gotten older the frequency of attacks has gone down. I'm 27 now and I probably only get it once every couple of months. The reason for this week being particularly bad is probably down to 2 things. I am currently negotiating the purchase of a house and also I have a bruised rib injury sustained whilst playing soccer.

Anyway.. that's my story.
HollyMLeifer said Mar 29, 2011 07:57:55
I have been having this for as long as I remember and I am 26. To me, it feels like a sharp, stabbing pains under my breast. If I can psych myself into taking a fast, deep breath, I feel something pop and than I am fine. Sometimes I go for weeks without it happening, but sometimes it will happen multiple times a day, every day for weeks. Unlike most people, it seems to be getting worse as I get older, not better. I am more inclined to believe it is related to the lungs than the heart for one simple reason. While it is more common on my left side, it is in no way irregular on my right!
LoraArchibaldHumphreys said May 03, 2011 17:28:05
Hi everyone!

I, too, am excited to have found this website! I am 32 & had my first "episode" when I was about 10 or 11. My parents took me to the doctor right away because I was screaming in pain, but the doctors were dumbfounded & sent me home without an explanation. Since then, I have had recurring episodes with no particular interval inbetween. I get them at completely random times, usually several months apart.

The episode I had yesterday is what prompted me to Google "chest pain in the left side." It started at about 4:30pm, and I was in tears when I went to bed around 11:30 pm! Normally, my episodes last only a few minutes, but the one yesterday would not go away! I finally got comfortable enough to fall asleep around 12:30am, and I was fine when I woke up this morning.

Most all of the articles I have read about PCS say that an episode will last UP TO 30 minutes max. This has me a little concerned that I may not be experiencing PCS, but otherwise, the description fits me exactly! And as I mentioned before, this 7 hour episode was not normal for me... usually it IS only a few minutes. I saw that someone else on here had an episode for 2 days... so it seems that it is possible.

Only other thing that I wanted to mention is that I have a heart murmur. I feel like this pain IS more concentrated in my lung than in my heart, but I was just curious if any of you have a heart murmur as well, and if there is any kind of link there.

MacMacAnanny said May 17, 2011 16:54:52
I have been experiencing the pains for years. I'm 37 now, and within the past year was able to match all my symptoms up with PCS. Though knowing this and what i have been through, i never had a severe episode until 3 weeks ago. I was pretty panicked and ended up calling my doctor and explaining the symptoms. Extremely painful chest, hurt to breathe in and out, dizzy, arms hurt, numbness in my fingers. The Doctor said to go immiedately to the E.R., that what i was describing fit a heart attack in progress. Well, after 8 hours in the E.R. and numerous tests, nothing. I am assuming once again that PCS is the case. In the past, i have been able to arch my back and bring my shoulders back to produce the "POP" in my sternum and everythig would go away. I think i was too panicked during the last incident, probably hyper ventilating causig the numbness, and worry.

Left side chest pain, radiating above where the heart would be, hard to breathe and releif from popping were what i searched for as well. And there it was PCS. My docotor doesn't acknowledge it yet. But for me, i am relieved that maybe it is the diagnosis.

The past 3 weeks, i have been undergoing the Cardiac stress tests. My initial EKG on the treadmill was good. My Echo Cardiogram revealed a slight murmur as well. I had the nuclear isotope test yesterday, where they check the blood flow at rest with a radioactive injection and an hour and a half of waiting and then take pictures. They do it again, injecting you with the isotope after your heart rate reaches 150+ for a minute and a half. I should know the results in a week.

I was a smoker for 20 years up until 09/08/2010.

I also want to note, that where the pain originates is usually tender to the touch. Left side of chest, level with left nipple, closer to center.

Benjamin Schultz said Jun 28, 2011 04:11:11
I too have experienced this problem for the past 10-15 years. At 28, I've had several of these episodes in my life but last night I woke with one of the worst I've ever had.

At first, it just felt like a bubble or tight strain that eventually caused some discomfort and I would always take shallower breaths and then it would eventually pop and everything would be fine. Later episodes escalated to sharp stabbing pain, and yes, the pop would eventually come and all would be well again. Always within a reasonable period of time.

I always thought it was a muscle spasm and if not, I was afraid to even think what it might be. When I calmed down, and even during an episode, I keep thinking, "It doesn't feel like what a heart attack should be." And the statistics are on my side. I don't drink at all and have never smoked - not once.

Last night I awoke at 2:30 AM to a nasty sharp stabbing pain to the left and slightly below and to the left of where my heart muscle is. It slowly moved northeast over the next 4 hours to near my left shoulder and eventually went away while I slept. All the time, any attempt to move from laying on my right side caused excrutiating pain. I nearly thought I was going to miss a day of work and have to visit my doctor or maybe the local ER. Just seemed too close to the heart muscle for comfort.

The shallower breaths seem to be a reflex response - if you take big breaths, you place more pressure on the area and increase the pain exponentially.

I slept in an odd position on the couch before wandering to bed, had cold milk 1/2 hour before, and then was running the A/C to boot. I had a lot to eat yesterday and was quite full. Maybe some triggers?

It's very scary when it lasts a long time and I'm glad there's at least a name for it.
jenny8618 said Sep 18, 2011 03:57:26
I'm 24 and have been experiencing episodes of this for I'd say almost 15 years. I can remember having episodes around friends when I was younger and I would have to stop and not move and just press against my chest.

Through the years I regularly looked up my symptoms online and was happy to find one article a few years ago that talked about this. Not everything in the article matched my case but most of it was so spot on. Some of my episodes have lasted longer than 30 minutes, like I'd read. I've had some that started out with the sharp pain and then subside into the dull aching pain which I might have for half the day.

I've also never felt the "pop" which it seems everyone has experienced. After finding the article I tried a few times to take a deep breath in so that it would pop and the pain would go away. At first I couldn't bring myself to do it because it hurt too much but I managed to do it once and did not feel anything. The pain did seem to get a little better, though.

I agree with others that certain postures. like slouching, can bring on the pain. I usually shift around and see if it gets better or stand up and wait for it to go away.

At this point I'm not sure if I'm experiencing this more infrequently as I get older but it does seem like the episodes are lasting longer.

Thanks for starting this website. It makes me feel a little better about this problem which can be kinda scary sometimes.
avatar said Nov 01, 2011 10:06:59
Hey i am an 13 year old kid but since i was 11 i always get this sharp shooting pain under my left rib, it is painful but after a deep breath it goes. My teachers saw it and told me to check it out. I found this and i am pretty sure this is the problem. I hope it is benign and i will be fine. Will i? Why does it happen? Do i need to see a doctor? At one point it was to painful to move my upper body!
ColinStrook said Nov 10, 2012 18:26:36
This forum is amazing. My first episode happened when I was 13, and still continues till today. I am 27 now, and until very recently, as in a few days ago, was unable to find any information regarding the exact symptoms down to a T. Any information on chest pain I had found always had maybe one or two things that could be it, but it never fit. The symptoms for PCS match everything. I am sitting here reading everyone's stories in amazement, as I have spent 14 years trying to explain the pain I was having, and I have never met, or even heard of anyone having the same symptoms.

I was wondering however, it seems like most people have an attack while resting, or sleeping, and it does not seem to matter for me. I would say I have more attacks while resting, but I have also had them walking, running, whenever. And when all this started at 13 all my attacks were on the left side, and for the most part are, but I do feel the pain on my right side occasionally too. Has anyone else here experienced this too?
ColinStrook said Nov 10, 2012 18:52:05
To extracovercricket: I know exactly how you feel. It is very scary the first few times, not knowing what the hell is going on. When I first started having attacks, they came out of nowhere, and were very frequent. Unfortunately when I went to the doctor he couldn't tell me what it was. It sounds like your symptoms fit PCS pretty well. After a few months, getting no real answers from anyone, and never meeting anyone who could relate in the slightest bit, I just let it go and figured it was a muscle cramp or something, dealing with the pain when it comes up. I have had people turn white thinking I was having a heart attack. I would have to try telling them while not inhaling or exhaling to deep or fast, that it was fine, and it happens all the time. From the first attack, to my most recent, the symptoms are always the same.

: sharp, stabbing pain, localized on my left side (90% of the time)
I can literally point to it.
: It feels like A LOT of pressure, almost like a bubble or something is stuck in there.
: If I take too deep or too fast of a breath, either inhaling or exhaling, it feels like something is going to pop and get damaged.
: It doesn't seem to matter for me if I am resting or active, however it does happen more while resting.
: The only, and quickest way for me to get rid of it, is to stop moving completely, try to stretch my upper body as slow as possible, while very slowly inhaling air, until the pain increases more, then exhaling until it hurts, inhaling again slowly, trying every time to gain a little more air every inhale. Usually by the time I can inhale a full breath of air, the pain will have vanished. This process works for me most of the time, and can take anywhere from a few seconds, to about 5 minutes, sometimes lasting longer.

But from what I have read online, PCS is not considered dangerous. I mean, if I had a 3 hour episode, so thankful I never have, I would probably go to the hospital to see if there was anything they could give me, because I dunno about everyone else here, but when im having an attack, I cant move, I can't walk, It's a chore to spit out a few words, until the pain goes away.
KarenSteiner said Feb 26, 2013 20:28:37

I have gotten these sharp pains in my chest since I was a kid. At least around 10. I was always afraid to tell my family I had them, I thought they would think that I was imagining it. There is a hereditary heart murmur that runs in my mom's side. They got me checked to make sure I didn't have the murmer almost all of my aunts and uncles have. I do not have the heart murmer.

But, I never knew what it was, but it was always really scary. I don't think it happened when I was stressed. I could be watching tv, and perfectly fine, and I would have an episode. It happened to me today while I was at work. I will be 30 in a month. The pain only lasted about half a minute. My husband gets the same kind of pain, which is why he wasn't freaked out when I was worried about it. He has had it since he was a kid, also.

I don't necessarily think it is stress related. It doesn't happen to me nearly as much anymore, but still does occasionally. But, it will happen without warning. I usually just try to sit still until the pain goes away. Move my body so it doesn't hurt so bad, take shallower breaths. It usually goes away after a few minutes.
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