Chest pain appears in many forms, ranging from a
sharp stab to a dull ache. Sometimes chest pain
feels crushing or burning. In certain cases, the
pain travels up the neck, into the jaw, and then
radiates to the back or down one or both arms.

Many different problems can cause chest pain.
The most life-threatening causes involve the heart
or lungs. Because chest pain can indicate a
serious problem, it's important to seek immediate
medical help.

Chest pain can cause many different sensations
depending on what's triggering the symptom.
Often, the cause has nothing to do with your heart
— though there's no easy way to tell without
seeing a doctor.

Heart-related chest pain
Although chest pain is often associated with heart
disease, many people with heart disease say they
experience a vague discomfort that isn't
necessarily identified as pain. 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:

Pressure, fullness, burning or tightness in
your chest
Crushing or searing pain that radiates to
your back, neck, jaw, shoulders, and one or
both arms
Pain that lasts more than a few minutes,
gets worse with activity, goes away and
comes back, or varies in intensity
Shortness of breath
Cold sweats
Dizziness or weakness
Nausea or vomiting
Other types of chest pain
It can be difficult to distinguish heart-related chest
pain 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 your mouth
Trouble swallowing
Pain that gets better or worse when you
change your body position
Pain that intensifies when you breathe
deeply or cough

Tenderness when you push on your chest
Pain that is persistently present for many
The classic symptoms of heartburn — a painful,
burning sensation behind your breastbone — can
be caused by problems with your heart or your

When to see a doctor
If you have new or unexplained chest pain or
suspect you're having a heart attack, call for
emergency medical help immediately.

Chest pain has many possible causes, all of which
need medical attention.
Heart-related causes
Examples of heart-related causes of chest pain

Heart attack. A heart attack results from
blocked blood flow, often from a blood
clot, to your heart muscle.

Angina. Angina is the term for chest pain
caused by poor blood flow to the heart.
This is often caused by the buildup of thick
plaques on the inner walls of the arteries
that carry blood to your heart. These
plaques narrow the arteries and restrict the
heart's blood supply, particularly during

Aortic dissection. This life-threatening
condition involves the main artery leading
from your heart (aorta). If the inner layers
of this blood vessel separate, blood is
forced between the layers and can cause
the aorta to rupture.

Pericarditis. This is the inflammation of the
sac surrounding your heart. It usually
causes sharp pain that gets worse when
you breathe in or when you lie down.
Digestive causes
Chest pain can be caused by disorders of the
digestive system, including:

Heartburn. This painful, burning sensation
behind your breastbone occurs when
stomach acid washes up from your
stomach into the tube that connects your
throat to your stomach (esophagus).
Swallowing disorders. Disorders of the
esophagus can make swallowing difficult
and even painful.

Gallbladder or pancreas problems.

Gallstones or inflammation of your
gallbladder or pancreas can cause
abdominal pain that radiates to your chest.

Muscle and bone causes
Some types of chest pain are associated with
injuries and other problems affecting the
structures that make up the chest wall, including:
Costochondritis. In this condition, the
cartilage of your rib cage, particularly the
cartilage that joins your ribs to your
breastbone, becomes inflamed and painful.

Sore muscles. Chronic pain syndromes,
such as fibromyalgia, can produce
persistent muscle-related chest pain.

Injured ribs. A bruised or broken rib can
cause chest pain.

Lung-related causes
Many lung disorders can cause chest pain,

Pulmonary embolism. This occurs when a
blood clot becomes lodged in a lung
(pulmonary) artery, blocking blood flow to
lung tissue.

Pleurisy. If the membrane that covers your
lungs becomes inflamed, it can cause chest
pain that worsens when you inhale or

Collapsed lung. The chest pain associated
with a collapsed lung typically begins
suddenly and can last for hours, and is
generally associated with shortness of
breath. A collapsed lung occurs when air
leaks into the space between the lung and
the ribs.

Pulmonary hypertension. This condition
occurs when you have high blood pressure
in the arteries carrying blood to the lungs,
which can produce chest pain.

Other causes
Chest pain can also be caused by:
Panic attack. If you have periods of intense
fear accompanied by chest pain, a rapid
heartbeat, rapid breathing, profuse sweating,
shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness and
a fear of dying, you may be experiencing a
panic attack.

Shingles. Caused by a reactivation of the
chickenpox virus, shingles can produce pain
and a band of blisters from your back
around to your chest wall.