Chest cramps or chest pain may be caused by a blockage in heart blood vessels that reduces oxygen and blood flow to the heart muscle, often an indication of coronary artery disease, according to WebMD. A severe, crushing cramp on the chest typically indicates a heart attack.
When experiencing a heart attack, chest cramps on the left or center side of the chest are often accompanied by shortness of breath, sweating or nausea, explains WebMD. Patients with myocarditis often experience symptoms similar to a heart attack when the inflammation in the heart muscle causes chest cramps, fever, fatigue and rapid heartbeat. Heart blood vessel blockage does not exist with myocarditis.
An infection of the sac around the heart, which results in inflammation, can also cause chest cramps. The chest pain is often steady and sharp and travels to the shoulder muscle and upper neck, notes WebMD. A genetic disease known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which causes an abnormally thick heart muscle to grow, can also cause chest cramps and shortness of breath during activity. In addition to chest cramps, this disorder may cause fainting, lightheadedness and dizziness. Conditions related to the lungs can also cause chest cramps, such as pneumonia, viral infections or pleurisy, which involves irritation or inflammation of the lining of the chest and lungs.