Chest Pain Symptoms

Chest pain related to cardiac problems

In general, chest pain related to a heart attack or another heart problem is associated with one or more of the following:

  • Pressure, fullness or tightness in your chest
  • Crushing or searing pain that radiates to your back, neck, jaw, shoulders and arms, especially your left arm
  • Pain that lasts more than a few minutes, goes away and comes back or varies in intensity
  • Shortness of breath, sweating, dizziness or nausea

If you are concerned about your heart, you can try this questionnaire for the Prediction of Coronary Artery Disease (CAD).

Chest pain related to noncardiac problems

Chest pain that isn't related to a heart problem is more often associated with:

  • A burning sensation behind your breastbone (sternum)
  • 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

Your Heart

  • Angina is a type of heart-related chest pain. This pain occurs when your heart is not getting enough blood and oxygen. The most common symptom is chest pain that occurs behind the breast bone or slightly to the left of it. It may feel like tightness, heavy pressure, squeezing, or crushing pain. The pain may spread to the arm, shoulder, jaw, or back.
  • Aortic dissection (tearing of the aorta wall) causes sudden, severe pain in the chest and upper back.
  • Heart attack pain can be similar to the pain of unstable angina, but more severe.
  • Inflammation or infection in the tissue around the heart (pericarditis) causes pain in the center part of the chest.

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Your Lungs

  • A blood clot in arteries of your lung (pulmonary embolism), collapse of a small area of the lung (pneumothorax), or inflammation of the lining around the lung (pleurisy) can cause chest pain that usually feels sharp, and often gets worse whith a deep breath or cough.
  • Asthma generally also causes shortness of breath, wheezing, or coughing.
  • Pneumonia causes chest pain that usually feels sharp, and often gets worse when you take a deep breath or cough.

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Your GI

  • Achalasia
    • Regurgitation of food
    • Chest pain that may increase after eating or may be felt in the back, neck, and arms
    • Cough
    • Difficulty swallowing liquids and solids
  • Esophageal spasms
    • Squeezing chest pain, often intense and similar to angina
    • Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
  • Gallbladder (pain often gets worse after a meal, especially a fatty meal)
  • Heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux (GERD)
  • Pancreatitis (aching pain in the upper abdomen and back)
  • Stomach ulcer or gastritis (burning pain occurs if your stomach is empty and feels better when you eat food)

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Other Causes

  • Your Chest wall, local tenderness and/or sweliing that is worse when pressed
    • Inflammation where the ribs join the breast bone or sternum (costochondritis)
    • Strain or inflammation of the muscles and tendons between the rib
  • A variety of tumors inside your chest can produce localized pains
  • Anxiety and rapid breathing
  • Shingles (inflammation/infection of the nerve that causes sharp, tingling pain on one side that stretches from the chest to the back)

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