Chest pain occurs in many various forms, from a sharp stab to a dull ache. Some chest pain is described as crushing or burning. In certain cases, the pain travels up the neck, into the jaw, and then radiates through to the back or down one or both arms.

Many different problems can cause chest pain. The most life-threatening ones involve the heart or lungs. Because it can be difficult to determine the cause of chest pain, it is best to seek immediate medical help. Only medical professionals can determine the exact cause of chest pain.



A wide range of health problems can cause chest pain.

Although chest pain is commonly attributed to heart disease, many people with heart disease say they experience a vague discomfort. In general, chest discomfort related to a heart attack or another heart problem may be described by or associated with one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath,
  • Pressure, fullness or tightness in the chest,
  • Crushing or searing pain that radiates to the back, neck, jaw, shoulders and arms, particularly the left arm,
  • Pain that lasts more than a few minutes, gets worse with activity, goes away and comes back or varies in intensity,
  • Cold sweats,
  • Dizziness or weakness,
  • Nausea or vomiting.

It can be difficult to distinguish chest pain due to a heart problem from other types of chest pain. However, chest pain that is less likely due to a heart problem is more often associated with:

  • A sour taste or a sensation of food re-entering the mouth,
  • Trouble swallowing,
  • Pain that gets better or worse when you change the body position,
  • Pain that intensifies when you breathe deeply or cough,
  • Tenderness when you push on the chest.



Chest pain has many possible causes, all of which deserve medical attention. Examples of heart-related causes of chest pain include:

  • Heart attack,
  • Angina,
  • Aortic dissection,
  • Pericarditis.

Chest pain can be caused by disorders of the digestive system, including heartburn, swallowing disorders and gallbladder or pancreas problems.

Some types of chest pain are associated with injuries and other problems affecting the structures that make up the chest wall. Examples include: costochondritis, sore muscles and injured ribs.

Many lung disorders can cause chest pain, including: pulmonary embolism, leurisy, collapsed lung and pulmonary hypertension, but chest pain can also be caused by panic attacks and shingles.


Risk factors

Risk factors are related to the causes of the disorders which produce the chest pain.



The severity and duration of the symptoms described as chest pain differ from person to person and require an urgent medical examination and treatment.



Treatment will vary, depending on the underlying cause of the chest pain. Drugs used to treat some of the most common causes of chest pain include:

  • Artery relaxers,
  • Aspirin,
  • Clot-busting drugs,
  • Blood thinners,
  • Acid-suppressing medications,
  • Antidepressants.

Surgical procedures to treat some of the most dangerous causes of chest pain include:

  • Balloons and stent placement,
  • Bypass surgery,
  • Dissection repair,
  • Lung reinflation.



Healthy lifestyle may help prevent the causes of chest pain.