What is chest pain?

Chest pain includes any type of pain or discomfort that occurs between your upper belly area and your lower neck. Chest pain can occur in any age group or population and may be described as chest tightness, chest pressure, or a feeling of burning or fullness in the chest. Chest pain may also be sharp, dull, throbbing, crushing, tearing, cramping or achy.

Chest pain can be a serious, life-threatening symptom and is the classic symptom of a heart attack. Chest pain is often associated with a heart attack and other types of heart and cardiovascular disease, but it can also occur with a wide variety of other diseases, disorders and conditions. For example, chest pain can result from a relatively mild to moderate condition that is relatively easy to treat, such as drinking too much coffee, occasional indigestion, hyperventilation, or an anxiety attack.

Chest pain can also be a symptom of more serious conditions of the gastrointestinal tract, such as acid reflux and GERD, or serious respiratory conditions. These include pneumothorax, acute bronchitis, bronchiolitis, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pulmonary embolism, pulmonary edema, and lung cancer. In children, chest pain is usually not caused by a heart attack, but may be caused by a congenital heart condition, pneumonia, pleuritis, or birth defect.

Depending on the cause, chest pain can be last briefly and disappear quickly, such as during hyperventilation or when breathing in very cold air. Sharp chest pain that occurs in a sudden, severe episode may be due to a heart attack or pulmonary embolism. Chronic and ongoing chest pain may be due to COPD or lung cancer.

It is not possible to accurately identify the precise cause at home. Seek immediate emergency care (call 911) if you have unexplained chest pain or a crushing feeling in your chest, if the pain is radiating to your shoulder blades, jaw, or left arm, or if you have shortness of breath, sweating, or chest pain at rest. In addition, sudden chest pain with shortness of breath after a long period of inactivity, such as prolonged bed rest, may be a sign of a pulmonary embolism and is a life-threatening emergency.


What other symptoms might occur with chest pain?

Chest pain often occurs in conjunction with other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. For example, if chest pain is related to an infection, you may experience a fever and body aches. Diseases and conditions of organs and tissues in your chest or abdomen, such as the lu... Read more about chest painsymptoms


What causes chest pain?

Chest pain is caused by a variety of mild to serious disorders, diseases or conditions. Chest pain can result from infection, infarction, inflammation, trauma, malignancy, and other abnormal processes. While many cases of chest pain are due to problems with the heart, chest pain can also be due to respiratory diseases, problems with digestion, anxiety disorders, or a pulled muscle or tendon. In... Read more about chest paincauses

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 9, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Heart, Blood and Circulation