What Is Precordial Catch Syndrome (PCS)?
Precordial catch syndrome (PCS) is a benign condition that is characterized by the sudden onset of sharp chest pain. The experience can be frightening and breathtaking, and sufferers often fear that they may be experiencing a heart attack.
Also known as Texidor's Twinge, it is a common cause of chest pain typically occurring in children and adolescents. It occurs less frequently in adults.
It manifests as a very intense, sharp pain typically on the left-hand side of the body, in the vicinity of the chest.
You could be sitting still, walking or simply watching television and you are suddenly hit with excruciating pain.
The syndrome was first identified and named by Miller and Texidor in 1955 after they reported the condition in 10 patients, one being Miller himself.
What Causes PCS?
PCS is understood to be a localized cramping of muscles.
There is no known official cause.
The best thing about this syndrome is that it is benign. The worst thing about it is the fear that the chest pain may be a sign of a serious heart condition. In most cases, however, this is not the case.
My Personal Experience
As a sufferer myself, I experienced my first episode whilst pregnant with my second child in my mid-30s. Not only had I never heard of this syndrome before, I had never experienced anything quite like it.
The sudden onset of cramping pain literally stopped me in my tracks. My body was frozen. I could not move one inch. The slightest turn intensified the pain. I couldn't even breathe deeply. I was petrified. I seriously thought something was drastically wrong. After what felt like minutes, but was probably only about 30 seconds, the pain went away. It just disappeared—and I continued on as if nothing ever happened. And yet the experience lingered in my mind.
Not until it happened again, and again—without warning and without any pattern—did I hit the internet trying to self-diagnose.
I searched for phrases such as 'sharp left chest pain', 'intense pain under left ribs' and 'popping pain in chest' and soon enough I was enlightened. It was a huge relief to know that this was not dangerous despite the excruciating pain.
However, I left no stone unturned and did seek a second opinion from my local doctor who confirmed my thoughts.
The episodes continued randomly throughout my pregnancy and since the birth of my child I have only experienced it two other times. It has been over a year now.
I cannot explain how, why or where it came from. I am relieved to know, however, that at least for now all is OK.
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Although breathing during an episode can cause further excruciating pain, the act of deep inhalation results in a "popping" sensation which quickly and completely resolves pain.
Whilst a visit to your doctor for a checkup is always recommended, specialists typically consider it to be nothing more than an annoyance. Ultimately no medical treatment is needed. There are no pills, potions or prescriptions that can make this go away. As suddenly as it can occur, it can disappear just as fast.
No medical treatment is needed. The sudden resolution is complete and leaves sufferers with no other associated symptoms or abnormal physical findings.
Common Signs of PCS
Striking out of the blue, sufferers of PCS tell of what can only be described sharp chest pain. Symptoms are characteristically similar, typically beginning with a piercing pain on the left-hand side of the body, in the chest area. The pain is localised and stops you in your tracks.
Taking a sudden breath due to the sudden onset of the pain can often intensify it.
Lasting no longer than a couple of minutes, and typically only a few seconds, the episode eventually passes and the sufferer can continue on as if nothing ever happened.
As sudden as the pain can come and go, the frequency is just as random. Many experience episodes daily, some weekly and others with no pattern at all.
Sufferers describe the following signs:
- Anterior chest pain
- Sudden onset which lasts for 30 seconds to 3 minutes
- Localised pain - does not radiate down the arms or across the chest
- Stabbing sharp pain, and in some cases a more dull pain
- Pain upon any form of further movement or breathing
- Popping sensation when breathing deeply
- Pain is exacerbated by breathing deeply
More severe signs can include:
- Momentary loss of vision or mild blurry vision
- Flushing or palpitations (typically due to the onset of panic)
Whilst medical discussion states that such episodes are nothing more than a pain in one's side (pardon the pun) sufferers know all too well the uncomfortable feeling that this generates. Do you suffer from this syndrome or know someone who does?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2013 WorkAtHomeMums
Katherine on June 01, 2013:
My parents told me it was gas when I started having this as a teen. Thanks for the info.
An AYM on January 12, 2013:
Thanks for telling me, I thought I just had to wait it out!
WorkAtHomeMums (author) from Australia on January 12, 2013:
Yes that's right. The pop happens if you breathe deeply. One long breath in and whilst it hurts it gets to the point of popping and then it's all gone. Otherwise it just goes without any popping sensation if it happens on its own.
An AYM on January 12, 2013:
Huh, I think I might have had this multiple times before. I never knew what it was, but just kind of accepted it as a thing that happens every now and then.
I've never gotten the pop sensation though, just a left-sided chest pain that feels specifically aggravated by deep breaths and feels fine if I keep my breathing lighter.