Various causes of chest pain and when to seek medical attention

Various causes of chest pain and when to seek medical attention

Chest discomfort can result from many health problems. Some are pretty serious, while others are probably nothing to think about.

Often, a blocked artery and a heart attack are demonstrated by chest pain. This is an emergency condition in which the heart does not obtain sufficient blood and oxygen to work properly.

Chest pain, however, may also stem from, for example , a health condition involving the lungs, stomach, or muscles.

Emergency treatment for chest pain is important , especially if it is sudden and extreme and followed by shortness of breath, dizziness, or both.

Heart-related causes

Chest pain

Chest pain can be caused by many heart problems, including:

Heart attack

The best-known cause of chest pain may be a heart attack and the pain usually happens in the middle of the chest.

People experience this pain differently, while others report a squeezing sensation, others describe it as painful, intense, sudden, and serious. In certain individuals, the pain comes and goes.

It is worth noting that a heart attack does not always cause chest pain. Other symptoms with or without chest pain can be encountered by a person, including:

  • cold sweats
  • lightheadedness
  • nausea
  • pain in other areas, such as the arms, back, jaw, or stomach
  • shortness of breath
  • dizziness
  • sweating

Males and females may also experience heart attacks differently, too.

Anyone who suspects they may have a heart attack should obtain medical attention immediately.

Aortic dissection

A life-threatening disease in which a tear occurs in the lining of the aorta, one of the most important arteries in the body, is the cause in chest pain.

It can cause fatal bleeding if the tear is big enough or a doctor is unable to treat it in time.

The signs are similar to heart attack symptoms, and they may also include:

  • leg pain or paralysis
  • paralysis on one side of the body
  • difficulty speaking or seeing

Immediate medical attention should be given to anyone who might be experiencing this.


When the sac covering the heart, called the pericardium, becomes inflamed, pericarditis occurs.

This, particularly when a person takes a deep breath, can cause chest pain.

Aortic stenosis

The aortic valve facilitates the passage of oxygenated blood out of the left ventricle of the heart and into the rest of the body.

When this valve becomes stiff, either from age or disease, stenosis occurs. It can cause chest pain when this occurs and the heart pumps out less blood.

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy

This condition causes the heart muscles to become too thick, shrinking the chambers of the heart. As a result, less blood is capable of holding the heart and does not pump as efficiently.

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy can also stop a healthy electrical rhythm from being sustained by the heart.

Respiratory causes

The lungs reside in the chest cavity, and pain in the area can be caused by the following health conditions affecting the lungs:


For emphysema and chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease ( COPD) is an umbrella term.

People with COPD also experience upper middle chest pain, as well as inflammation of the lung, excessive coughing, and swelling of the airways.

Costochondritis, inflammation of muscles between the ribs, can also be encountered. This can cause irritation and chest pain that is stabbing, burning, or aching.

Costochondritis, caused by a viral illness , for example, may also occur in people without COPD.

Lung infections

Upper or lower respiratory infections can lead to chest pain, as well as pneumonia.

This is particularly common if a person is coughing excessively, which can make the chest muscles tired and irritated.

Pulmonary embolism

This refers to a clot in the lungs that prevents the flow of blood. It is a medical emergency that may pose a danger to life.

Shortness of breath, anxiety, dizziness, and coughing are signs of pulmonary embolism.

Digestive causes

Chest pain may result from the following health problems that affect the stomach or esophagus, a thin tube that connects the mouth to the stomach:

Esophageal spasm

This applies to easily contracting and relaxing the esophagus. Extreme chest pain and discomfort, among other symptoms, may be the result.

The causes of these spasms are unknown, but a role could be played by stress and dietary and environmental factors.


A chronic disorder causing stomach acid to rise through the esophagus and mouth is gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD.

It can cause a burning sensation in the chest so extreme that it resembles the pain of a heart attack.

Nutcracker esophagus

This disorder can cause esophageal spasms and food to rise up into the esophagus, a problem called achalasia, also called jackhammer esophagus.

Chest pain may also arise from other health conditions that affect the esophagus. These involve ulcers and inflammation, such as eosinophilic esophagitis, an inflammatory condition.

Causes related to muscles or bones

Chest pain is often caused by a strained muscle in the chest or inflammation of these muscles, and the symptoms may be so extreme that they are similar to heart attack symptoms.

A person might experience:

  • numbness
  • sharp, shooting pain that extends to the back and neck
  • tingling

Also, a broken or sprained rib can also lead to chest pain. 

Causes related to mental health

Extreme anxiety and other mental health conditions often cause pain in the chest.

For example , an individual may be having a panic attack, which can also cause:

  • the heart to pound loudly
  • heart palpitations
  • a rapid heart rate
  • shaking
  • shortness of breath
  • sweating
  • lightheadedness or dizziness
  • nausea

Takotsubo cardiomyopathy is another cause of chest pain that is linked to emotions. This happens when temporary changes in the heart are caused by an extremely stressful experience.

This disorder is often called “broken heart syndrome” by doctors, and the symptoms can resemble those of a heart attack.

When to see a doctor

Even if the cause does not turn out to be a heart condition, a person should receive urgent medical attention for chest pain.

It is particularly necessary to receive urgent treatment if chest pain is followed by any of the following:

  • confusion
  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • shortness of breath
  • weakness
  • numbness

If a person knows the cause of their chest pain, such as acid reflux or COPD, if the symptoms intensify, they can call their doctor.


An estimated 16.4 percent were associated with chest pain in a 2019 survey of nearly 61,000 emergency calls.

The possible causes of this pain are numerous, but it is a symptom that needs immediate treatment. Emergency treatment should be provided to someone who might have a heart attack as soon as possible.

Tests, scans, and careful symptom examination will assist a doctor to determine the problem and recommend the correct course of action.