Menopause and Chest Pain - When to Get Medical Help | Stella
Long-term health
6 mins

Chest pain in menopause

byDr. Nick Morse

Chest pain of any kind may make you feel alarmed, but it’s extremely common. It comes with a long list of possible causes ranging from the not-so-serious to an emergency. Read our guide to find out if menopause makes chest pain more likely and when you should talk to your healthcare provider.

What is chest pain?

When we talk about chest pain, we mean any type of pain or discomfort in that area of your body. Calling it chest pain can be misleading, as people often describe their discomfort using other words, such as:

  • Pressure
  • Heaviness
  • Burning
  • Aching
  • Cramping
  • Tightness

Where you feel these sensations also varies from person to person. Your chest pain may appear in the front, sides, or back of your ribcage and you might feel the pain travel to other parts of your body too. 

What causes chest pain?

There are so many reasons why you might have chest pain. Your mind may jump to the worst-case scenario, but most causes are less serious, such as muscular pain, acid reflux, and even anxiety.

However, it’s important to see your healthcare provider if the symptom seems to be getting worse, or happening more often, to ensure that there is nothing more sinister causing your chest pain. They will want to rule out:

  • Heart attacks
  • Blood clots in the lungs (Pulmonary embolus or PE) 
  • Aneurysms, which are bulging blood vessels

Can menopause cause chest pain?

Yes, it’s possible that your menopause symptoms are contributing to your chest pain, but you will also need to check with your doctor in case something more serious is going on. 

Your estrogen levels fall during menopause. In addition to the increased risk of cardiovascular disease that comes with aging, you have an increased risk of heart attacks and other types of cardiovascular disease, as you lose the protective effect of estrogen during menopause. This is why you should always see a doctor if you have any concerns about your chest pain.

Aches and pains 

Aches and pains anywhere on your body are common during menopause. You might have chest pain because of aching muscles in your chest, shoulders, or back.

Breast pain and sensitivity

Fluctuating estrogen levels can lead to breast pain, which can feel the same as other types of chest pain. See your healthcare provider if you notice any changes to your breasts, such as lumps, rashes, dimpling, or nipple changes. 

Read more about other warning signs to look out for during menopause

Mental health

It’s common to feel anxious and stressed during menopause, which can occasionally cause chest pain. If your doctor has told you that your chest pain is due to anxiety, calming strategies can help. For example, simply taking a few deep breaths in and out of your nose can help relieve chest pain when you feel panicked. Tell your doctor if you are often struggling with chest pain when stressed, or if you have any other signs of serious illness (see below).

Read more about how mindfulness can ease anxiety.

When should you see your healthcare provider?

When to call 911

If you have any signs of a heart attack, including sudden or new chest pain with:

  • Pain that spreads to your jaw, arms, neck, or back
  • Tightness, heaviness, or pressure in your chest that is severe or lasts more than a minute
  • Breathlessness that lasts more than a minute
  • Feeling shaky, sweaty, sick, or otherwise unwell that doesn’t go away after a minute or two
  • Feeling dizzy or passing out
  • Palpitations for 10 minutes or more
  • Any other symptom that is worrying you

If you have known cardiac problems, you should also call 911 if your chest pain is getting worse, happening at rest, or not getting better when you take your usual medications. 

When to talk to your healthcare provider

If you have any other new chest pain, including chest pain that comes and goes. It’s especially important to get checked out as soon as possible if you have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. These include:

  • Being a smoker or ex-smoker
  • Being overweight
  • Drinking more than the recommended one drink per day, or seven per week
  • High blood pressure or cholesterol
  • Heart problems, cancer, blood clotting problems, a previous pulmonary embolism (PE) or deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
  • A family history of heart or circulation problems, such as heart attacks, blood clots, and/or stroke

Some types of hormone therapy (HT) can increase your risk of blood clots, which can cause chest pain if they travel to your lungs. Your doctor will ask if you are taking HT or any other hormonal medications like the contraceptive pill.

Read more about the risks and benefits of HT.

Final word

Chest pain often has a benign cause, but double-checking there’s not something more serious going on could ultimately save your life. Don’t ever feel like you are a bother to your healthcare provider as they always want to hear about new symptoms as early as possible.

Find out more about menopause on our blog or in our symptoms library.