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Precordial Catch Syndrome: The Chest Pain That’s More ‘Scary’ Than ‘Dangerous’

Precordial catch syndrome occurs when nerves in the front of the chest muscles squeeze, causing chest pain and aggravation. Though it sounds serious, PCS is actually not a medical emergency and usually causes no harm. Unfortunately, PCS does primarily affect children, which can cause a lot of worry in parents.

Typically the symptoms only last a few minutes, but they do come on suddenly, which can be scary for kids. Children describe the pain at a stabbing or sharp pain, and because it is localized often to the left side of the chest, parents unfamiliar with the condition may fear a heart attack is happening. Deep breaths seem to exacerbate the pain, too.

Luckily, the pain often subsides as quickly as it came, leaving no other complications doctors can measure. In fact, doctors aren’t exactly sure what causes the pain, as the children affected almost always have perfectly healthy hearts and lungs.

Some doctors believe the irritation comes from the nerves in the lining of the lungs. Others believe that developing rib cages and their corresponding cartilage are to blame. But no one specific instance seems to trigger precordial catch syndrome: poor posture, exercise, and growth spurts are all possible factors according to doctors.

Precordial catch syndrome is treatable with basic medications

Anytime your child experiences severe chest pain, of course you’ll want to consult a doctor. But just know that your child could very likely be suffering from PCS, which is ultimately non-life threatening. However, if your child’s chest pain is accompanied by lightheadedness, nausea, headache, or shortness of breath, call 911.

If the diagnosis is precordial catch syndrome, though, no specific treatment is needed. Your doctor will likely recommend a nonprescription pain reliever, such as ibuprofen or Tylenol. Sometimes slow, gentle breaths can also help the pain disappear in some patients. And in some cases, a deep breath or two may fix the pain, though those breaths will probably hurt for a moment.

Doctors think a good way to help avoid a PCS flare up is to sit with better posture. Encourage your children to sit up straight at school and at their computers. Not only will those good habits help avoid PCS during childhood and teen years, but they will carry over into adulthood and help reduce neck and back problems.

As always, if the nature of the pain feels extreme, consult a doctor or other health professional.

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