Hearing a sound coming from a place it’s not supposed to can be alarming. And this alarm can turn into straight-up morbid dread if it’s coming from your chest. But wait, there’s no need to panic just yet. If you’re hearing a popping noise coming from your chest near your heart, it’s probably not as serious as you might think.
Popping in chest near heart is a common complaint and the causes are usually just as common. But there is a chance it might be caused by something serious. In this article, You’ll find everything you need to know about what causes popping noises in your chest and what you can do about it.
So let’s get into it.
Table of Content
Why is there Popping in the Chest near Heart?
The popping sound in your chest may be caused by many different factors. These causes may be as simple as gas bubbles getting released from the joints during normal movement. This is the same phenomenon that causes the popping sound when we crack your knuckles.
But other common causes produce popping sounds in the chest. These may include fracture of the sternum after injury, muscle spasms, inflammations, congenital anomalies, etc. Nobody knows for sure what causes the popping sound. But generally, it’s not considered medically unless there are other symptoms like swelling or pain.
Anatomy of the Chest area:
Before we begin trying to understand the causes behind the popping in the chest near heart, we need to understand the basic anatomy of the chest cavity itself.
The chest or thorax is one of the major body cavities. It begins from just below the neck and up to the abdomen, below the border of the last pair of ribs. The thorax is very important as it houses two of the most important organs of the human body, the heart and the lungs.
These vital organs are protected by the rib cage. The rib cage is a protective cage made of bones and cartilage that protects the organs and vessels of the chest. It comprises 12 thoracic vertebrae, 12 pairs of differently shaped ribs, and the sternum or breastbone. The sternum is the bone in the middle of the chest, sticking out at an angle. This is a very important bone as it lies directly above many vital structures of the chest cavity.
All these bones are joined together by synovial joints between the ribs and vertebrae, costochondral joints between the ribs and cartilage, and sternocostal joints between the cartilage and the sternum. These joints allow the rib cage to move up and down during respiration. These joints also are the sources of the popping sound that you might hear coming from your chest.
When these joints move, they cause friction between each other. In the right circumstances, the friction may cause gases in the joint cavity to form bubbles that burst immediately, creating the popping sound that we hear.
So now we know the normal cause of popping sounds in the chest. But the popping may be caused by several other reasons.
Let’s take a look.
10 Causes for Popping in the Chest near Heart
The popping sound coming from your chest might be nothing to worry about. But, there are several severe conditions that might make this type of sound.
Here are the top 10 reasons for hearing popping in chest near heart:
Trauma is the most common cause of hearing popping noise near your sternum. This can be caused due to strains, sprains, fractures, etc.
You might get a sprain in your sternum by trying to push or lift a very heavy object or trying to stretch your upper body beyond its limit. This can cause microtrauma, caused due to wear and tear of muscles, cartilage, and other underlying tissue. This can cause popping noises when you try to move or just popping sound in chest when breathing. This type of trauma is most commonly accompanied by other signs like pain, swelling in the area, heat, etc.
Another more serious form of trauma might be due to fractures. Sternal fractures or breaking of the breastbone are common in car accidents, sports, etc. It is caused by more direct trauma to the sternum or ribcage. In case of minor fractures, it may heal by itself but the damage to the bone may create sites of weakness, which may then produce popping noises.
You might also feel pain in the chest after strenuous exercise or working out. This might be caused by improper workout practices or not taking the necessary precautions. You can learn a lot more about it on this article on pain in the ribs after working out.
- Muscle Spasm:
The sternum and the rib cage are covered with muscles that expand and contract the chest during respiration. These muscles maintain their function 24/7 making sure we are breathing, even while we sleep. So, it’s quite common for these muscles to spasm.
A muscle spasm is an involuntary and often painful contraction of muscles. Muscle spasms can be caused due to many reasons, but they often pass without causing serious complications.
Muscle spasms may cause unnatural contractions of joints, or even cause them to change positions. This may cause symptoms like popping in chest near heart.
- Partial Dislocation:
Another cause of hearing a popping noise in the chest might be dislocations of the many joints in the sternal region. Dislocations are when bones or cartilage move out of their natural positions due to sudden force or injury.
Partial dislocations in the ribcage might be due to impact by a fast-moving object like a football or due to a sudden extreme movement of the torso like taking a swing while playing golf. When the bones slip out of place, you might hear a ‘pop’.
Usually, dislocations can be pushed back into place, causing no further problems other than some pain and swelling. But in case of severe pain or other structures being affected, it is necessary to seek immediate medical attention.
Arthritis is a disease that causes inflammation of the joints, making it painful and difficult to move. It generally affects the elderly and is common in knees, elbows, back, shoulder, etc.
Arthritis in the ribcage is rare, but it can develop there. Arthritis may cause the wearing and erosion of the joint tissue near the sternum, making a popping sound in the chest when breathing.
Arthritis may also cause back pain while breathing. This problem can also be exaggerated by the combination of other underlying health problems.
Costochondritis is the term used to describe the condition of inflammation of the costochondral joints of the rib cage. Costochondritis results from underlying causes like trauma, strain, arthritis, infections, auto-immune conditions, etc. The inflammation spreads to the bones and the adjacent connective tissues like cartilage and ligaments. Which results in severe chest pain and inability to move the torso.
Costochondritis may cause weakening of the joints between the sternum and the upper ribs. This may cause popping sounds when the joints are articulated. If a person is suspected to have costochondritis, they should receive immediate medical attention to diagnose the underlying cause and begin appropriate treatment.
- Tietze Syndrome:
Tietze syndrome is a rare musculoskeletal condition with symptoms similar to costochondritis. It is an inflammatory disease that affects the joints between the sternum and the second and third ribs. It causes inflammation, pain, and swelling, although it is rarely serious or life-threatening.
The exact cause of Tietze syndrome is unknown although it is suspected to be caused by microtrauma to the chest muscles by strain, infections, or injuries. Tietze syndrome, like costochondritis, can cause weakness in the costochondral and sternocostal joints. This may cause them to pop, on movement.
- Precordial Catch Syndrome:
Precordial Catch Syndrome is the name of a condition that mostly affects toddlers and teenagers, aged between 6 to 14 years. Its characteristic symptoms include sharp, stabbing pain, in the chest wall near the heart, usually in the left fourth or fifth intercostal space. The cause of precordial catch syndrome is unknown, but it is theorized that it is caused by the irritation of intercostal nerves. The pain usually subsides on its own within a few breaths, and there is no evidence to prove that it is life-threatening.
Precordial Catch Syndrome may affect any child, and they may describe the feeling of pain as a ‘popping’ feeling in chest near heart. So, this might also be a reason that you or your child may be experiencing popping in chest near heart.
- Calcification of Cartilage:
Calcifications of various cartilages of the body can be seen from 30 years of age in both men and women. It is a normal physiological process the body’s regulatory mechanisms get less efficient and calcium salts are deposited in the matrix of connective tissues. But pathological calcifications can also occur due to inflammation, infection, auto-immune disorders, etc.
Calcification in the cartilages of the sternal area may produce shards of calcified cartilage within the joints of the ribcage. These shards may increase wear and tear at the joints, breaking away in the process. These small shards of cartilage may produce popping sounds when your chest moves.
- Synovial Gas:
The synovial joints in our body, which include all the joints capable of movement, contain synovial fluid. This fluid helps to lubricate the bones and cartilages in the joint, preventing friction and injury from wear and tear.
When the joint moves, the pressure of these liquids changes. Sudden movements may create spaces of negative pressure, which causes gases mixed in the liquid, like nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon dioxide to become separated from the liquid and form bubbles. These bubbles form and burst immediately, creating the popping noise we here. In medical terms, this phenomenon is called crepitus.
The cause of popping in chest near heart has not yet been explained. But this is the most plausible explanation. Crepitus is a normal phenomenon and occurs all over the body, like in the movement of the elbows and knees, during cracking of knuckles, or chest popping when stretching. It doesn’t require any medical attention.
Popping in the chest may be related to surgeries performed by removing the sternum. The removal of the sternum may be required in surgeries like coronary artery bypass grafting, heart transplant, lung transplant, removal of a tumor, etc.
In the first few months after major surgery, the surgery may move slightly during physical activity. This may produce a mild popping feeling in chest but no pain.
Again, popping noises may be indicative of improper or impaired healing of the sternum. This is called sternal instability. Conditions that may lead to impaired healing of the sternum include infection, obesity, osteoporosis, diabetes, etc.
Sternal instability is usually accompanied by severe pain, swelling, and the inability to raise arms above the chest level. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, consult your doctor as soon as possible.
- Why do I feel a pop in my chest?
Popping in your chest might be caused by various reasons. But most commonly, it’s gas bubbles trapped in your joints, popping when you move.
- What causes popping in the chest?
Popping in the chest can be caused by many different reasons. Most of the time, it’s just gas bubbling bursting in your joints, like when you crack your knuckles. But other reasons may include, injury, trauma, muscle spasm, dislocations, etc.
- My chest popped and now it hurts. What should I do?
If you felt a pop in your chest, try to figure out what you were doing. If you were trying to lift something heavy or stretch, it might just be caused by the extension of the joints and friction between the bones and cartilage.
However, if you’ve been injured by a fall or by getting hit by something, you might have suffered a fracture or dislocation. In this case, seek medical attention immediately.
Popping noises in the chest is a common problem and usually not very serious. Sometimes you may hear popping feeling in chest no pain. But most people tend to overreact as any pain or disturbance in the chest immediately sounds the alarm in your heads. But this can often lead to exaggerating the problem rather than solving it.
Objective thinking and rational decision-making should be at the forefront while dealing with any medical problem. Popping in chest near heart is no different. Hopefully, this article has helped you understand this problem and how to deal with it.