Understanding the causes of chest pain is the key to dealing with it. Because it is a symptom of a heart attack, people become concerned. The possibility should never be discounted of course, but other likely causes have to be looked into as well.


The condition is defined as pain or discomfort in the area between your upper abdomen and neck. Some conditions are not life threatening if treated early. These include bronchitis, asthma and heartburn. Many people associate the pain with the heart. In fact, other organs may be responsible such as your lungs, nerves, oesophagus, ribs and muscles. The pain may spread to the back, abdomen or neck depending on the cause.

Chest Problems and the Heart

The most serious causes are angina/heart attack, swelling and a tear in the aorta wall. When the pain is caused by a heart attack, discomfort in the chest is accompanied by crushing pain, tightness and difficulty breathing. It also comes with a feeling of numbness, spreading to the back, jaw, arm and shoulder. An aorta wall tear is accompanied by pain at the upper back. If the sensation is at the middle of the chest, it is likely due to swelling.

Digestive Problems and Other Causes

Aside from heartburn, gastroesophageal reflux (GERD and gastritis are common causes of chest pain. These are often mistaken for heart attacks. Other possible causes are spasms and gallstones. Anxiety, stress or panic attacks can cause a sudden burst of pain. Shingles, muscle strain and injuries sustained on the chest are candidates too.

Is it Serious?

Get emergency help if there is sudden pressure, squeezing or a feeling of tightness. You should also get help if the pain reaches your left arm, jaw and shoulders; these are heart attack symptoms. You should also call a doctor if the pain is accompanied by vomiting, nausea, and sweating.

The chest discomfort is serious if you feel your heartbeat is speeding and feel dizzy. If you know you have a heart condition and start feeling pain, call a doctor immediately or take whatever medication was prescribed to you. Seek help if your angina symptoms appear even when resting, or you experience shortness of breath after walking.

Those at Risk

The chest discomfort you feel could be serious if you have high blood pressure, a smoker or overweight. If heart disease runs in the family, the risk is increased. No matter what you think the causes of chest pain are, call a doctor if it lasts longer than two days. Treatment is also necessary if there is difficulty swallowing.

However, the pain is unlikely to be serious if it disappears when you change positions or if it is fleeting. If you have been examined before and a heart ailment was ruled out, the discomfort is probably not serious.


If you go to a hospital, tell the doctor all the facts. Let them know when the pain started, the sensations and so on. This will help them make a proper diagnosis. The diagnosis will centre on your heart and lungs and the chest wall. You will be asked several questions regarding the condition. You may also be subjected to various physical examinations such as chest X-rays, ECG, CT-scan and blood tests.

The most important thing to remember is not to panic; it will make things worse. That’s why it’s crucial that you are aware of the symptoms and causes. Being knowledgeable will help you take the right steps.