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The first thing you might think of when it comes to chest pain is that it is related to your heart. Rest assured though that this is not always the case – in fact, it is usually due to something else.

However, chest pain is an emergency if it comes on suddenly and you have the following symptoms:

  • Pain that starts in the chest and spreads to the arms, neck, jaw or back
  • If your chest feels tight or heavy
  • You have shortness of breath
  • You are sweaty
  • You feel sick or vomit

These could be the signs of a heart attack, so you should call 999 immediately and get medical help.

What is chest pain?

Chest pain is described as pain felt in your chest area, which starts at your shoulders and extends down to the bottom of your rib cage. It is common and although it is not always caused by something serious, you should consult a doctor to find out the cause.

It could be due to issues with your lungs, a pulled muscle, acid reflux, bruised ribs or the nerves in that area, or something else entirely. Some of the issues that cause chest pain are serious, while others are not, which is why it is best to get it checked out, so any underlying conditions can be ruled out or treated.

Chest pain symptoms

The symptoms of your chest pain will depend on what’s causing it, but can include:

  • Pain in the centre, left or right side of your chest
  • A sharp pain that comes and goes
  • A dull, constant pain
  • A burning pain
  • An aching sensation
  • A tight, crushing sensation
  • Pain when breathing deeply

What can chest pain be a symptom of?

Sometimes chest pain can be caused by an underlying medical condition and although most chest pain isn’t related to your heart, there are heart conditions that can cause it. You are more likely to suffer with heart conditions if you smoke, have high blood pressure or cholesterol, are obese or have diabetes. If anyone in your family has had a heart attack or suffered from angina under 60, you are also more prone to heart conditions.

Heart Attack

This happens when there is a blockage of blood to the heart – it is an emergency, so call 999. Classically this is a severe crushing pain across the chest, often associated with sweating and maybe associated with pain radiation to the left arm or jaw.

Angina

Blood vessels leading to the muscles of the heart become blocked, leading to chest pain. They symptoms can be similar to those of a heart attack. It is often triggered by physical activity or stress and should ease up after you rest.

Myocarditis

A disease that causes inflammation of the heart muscles.

Pericarditis

The protective, fluid-filled sac around the heart becomes inflamed, causing pain.

Aortic Dissection

This is a tear in the aorta, although it is a rare condition.

Cardiomyopathy

This is when the heart muscle becomes diseased, affecting its size, structure and shape.

Mitral Valve Prolapse

This is a heart murmur, where the heart valve doesn’t close properly.

Other causes of chest pain

Other causes can include:

  • Pneumonia

Usually caused by a bacterial infection, this is when the tissues in your lungs become inflamed. The chest pain will get worse when you are breathing or coughing.

  • Bronchitis

This is also an infection in the lungs, which cause them to become inflamed.

  • Pulmonary Embolism

A blocked blood vessel in your lungs is called a pulmonary embolism, which can be life threatening.

  • Asthma

Asthma causes inflammation of the bronchial tubes, and your airway can tighten or fill with mucus, causing chest pain.

  • Pulmonary Hypertension

This is a type of High Blood Pressure that impacts the arteries and right side of your heart. Symptoms can include chest pain.

  • Pneumothorax

This is more sometimes known as a collapsed lung and is more common in people with Asthma or Cystic Fibrosis.

  • Acid Reflux or Heartburn

This will usually start after eating and may result in a foul taste in your mouth, feeling full and a pain in your chest. It can also be a symptom of GORD.

  • Broken or bruised ribs

If your rib area is sore and swollen, and the pain gets worse when you breathe in or when you cough or sneeze, you could have damaged your ribs.

  • Sore muscles

A strained muscle in your chest can caused severe pain – it may be tender to touch and swollen too.

  • Shingles

This is a viral infection that causes a nerve, and the skin around it, to develop a rash.

  • Panic Attack

A panic attack may give you pain in the chest. You may also feel shortness of breath or tingling sensations.

This is not a complete list - work with a GP to investigate the causes of your GP - remember though, it it’s an emergency, call 999.

Other causes of chest pain

Other causes can include:

  • Pneumonia

    Usually caused by a bacterial infection, this is when the tissues in your lungs become inflamed. The chest pain will get worse when you are breathing or coughing.
  • Bronchitis

    This is also an infection in the lungs, which cause them to become inflamed.
  • Pulmonary Embolism

    A blocked blood vessel in your lungs is called a pulmonary embolism, which can be life threatening.
  • Asthma

    Asthma causes inflammation of the bronchial tubes, and your airway can tighten or fill with mucus, causing chest pain.
  • Pulmonary Hypertension

    This is a type of High Blood Pressure that impacts the arteries and right side of your heart. Symptoms can include chest pain.
  • Pneumothorax

    This is more sometimes known as a collapsed lung and is more common in people with Asthma or Cystic Fibrosis.
  • Acid Reflux or Heartburn

    This will usually start after eating and may result in a foul taste in your mouth, feeling full and a pain in your chest. It can also be a symptom of GORD.
  • Broken or bruised ribs

    If your rib area is sore and swollen, and the pain gets worse when you breathe in or when you cough or sneeze, you could have damaged your ribs.
  • Sore muscles

    A strained muscle in your chest can caused severe pain – it may be tender to touch and swollen too.
  • Shingles

    This is a viral infection that causes a nerve, and the skin around it, to develop a rash.
  • Panic Attack

    A panic attack may give you pain in the chest. You may also feel shortness of breath or tingling sensations.

This is not a complete list - work with a GP to investigate the causes of your GP - remember though, it it’s an emergency, call 999.

What should you do if you have chest pain?

If you have chest pain, you should seek medical advice from a doctor. If you think you or the person affected is showing signs of a heart attack (see above), you should call 999 immediately.

At Push Doctor, you can see a GP online from home, work or even on the go, on any device. Our doctors can discuss the chest pain you are having during a face-to-face video consultation, listen to your symptoms and suggest the right treatment to get you back up on your feet as quickly as possible.

If needed, our doctors can refer you to a specialist for further investigations.

You can see a GP about your chest pain at a time that is best for you. Our doctors are available from 6am - 11pm, 7 days a week. Book an appointment now.