Chest Pain – Causes & Symptoms

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Chest Pain

Chest pain is a pain or discomfort that can occur in any area of the chest and might spread to other areas of the upper body, including down to the arms or into the neck or jaws. Chest pain can be sharp or faint and one might feel tightness and heart ache.

Typically, the pain in the chest can last for a few minutes to hours and can sometimes occur for six months or longer. It typically worsens upon labour or any type of exertion and improves upon rest. The pain can be limited to a specific area or may be larger and can be in the left side, middle or right side of the chest.

Medical attention is required for chest pain in case of a heart attack or any life-threatening situation. 

Chest pain does not always relate to the heart and may have origins that are not related to the heart.

Causes of Chest Pain

Chest pain has many possible causes, and it needs medical care as soon as possible.

1. Heart-related causes:

  • Angina: This is chest pain due to poor blood flow to the heart and is often caused by plaque buildup on the inner walls of arteries that transport blood to the heart. This condition is especially restrictive of blood flow during strenuous activities. 
  • Heart attack:  Blocked blood flow to the heart muscle can result in blood clots causing the condition. This disease can be fatal sometimes and requires urgent treatment.
  • Aortic dissection: This often fatal condition involves the main artery of the heart called the aorta, where the blood vessels separate and blood is forced between layers, causing the aorta to rupture.
  • Pericarditis: This condition is caused by the Inflammation of the sac around the heart and becomes worse when breathing in or lying down.

2. Digestive causes: 

Chest pain can be caused by a digestive system, which includes:

  • Heartburn: A painful, often burning sensation felt behind the breastbone and occurs when the oesophagus is washed up with stomach acid.
  • Swallowing disorders: Swallowing can be difficult and quite painful
  • Gallbladder or pancreas problems: Inflammation of the gallbladder or pancreas can sometimes cause stomach pain that spreads to the chest area.

3. Muscle and bone causes: 

Some types of chest pain are connected with injuries and other problems affecting the structures that make the chest wall, and the conditions include:

  • Costochondritis:  The condition involves the Inflammation of the cartilage of the rib cage and can be excruciating.
  • Sore muscles: Broken or bruised rib can often cause chest pain.
  • Injured ribs: Ribs that are injured can cause pain and discomfort.

4. Lung-related causes

Many lung problems can lead to chest pain:

  • Pulmonary embolism: A blood clot in the lung artery can block blood flow and is a dangerous condition that needs to be treated early.
  • Pleurisy: The condition is due to Inflammation of the lung’s outer membrane and can get worse when breathing in or coughing.
  • Collapsed lungs: Occurs when the space between the lung and the ribs is filled with air due to leaks, and the pain can last for a long time.
  • Pulmonary hypertension: High blood pressure in lung arteries that carry blood to the lung can cause chest pain and discomfort.

5. Other causes:

  • Panic or anxiety attack: An intense fear with chest pain is termed panic or anxiety attack and can cause symptoms such as rapid heartbeat and breathing with profuse sweating and shortness of breath that comes with it. It can be hard to differentiate between a heart attack and a panic attack
  • Shingles: Intense pain and a plethora of blisters from the back to the chest area.

Symptoms of chest pain

What does chest pain feel like?

  • Pressure in the chest
  • Feeling of being crushed and squeezed
  • Tearing
  • Feeling of fullness
  • Tiredness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Discomfort in other body parts
  • Sickness
  • Profuse sweating
  • Lightheadedness

Treatment of chest pain

  • Medications such as Nitroglycerin and medications that open partially closed arteries, clot-busting drugs and blood thinners.
  • Cardiac catheterization, which includes balloons or stents to open blocked arteries.
  • Surgical repair of arteries, termed coronary artery bypass grafting or bypass surgery.

Other treatments include:

  • Lung reinflation for collapsed lungs
  • Antacids for acid reflux and heartburn
  • Anti-anxiety medications


Chest pains can be caused by multiple conditions, which may include acid reflux, anxiety attacks and asthma. But the condition can also be due to life-threatening conditions, and it is important to get it checked, especially if the condition is persistent and can potentially save one’s life.


1. What can cause chest pain in women?

It can be caused by acid reflux, oesophagal spasms, and issues such as asthma or COPD, musculoskeletal pain, and stress. Unfortunately, it is hard to differentiate between the different conditions and to know if it is a benign condition or a heart attack.


The Information including but not limited to text, graphics, images and other material contained on this blog are intended for education and awareness only. No material on this blog is intended to be a substitute for professional medical help including diagnosis or treatment. It is always advisable to consult medical professional before relying on the content. Neither the Author nor Star Health and Allied Insurance Co. Ltd accepts any responsibility for any potential risk to any visitor/reader.

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