Chest pain

What is chest pain?

Chest pain is discomfort in the chest that can appear in many forms. It can vary from a dull ache to a sharp stab and even a crushing or burning sensation. Chest pain can last for a few minutes, hours or even months. In some cases, the pain spreads from the chest, into the neck and jaw, down one or both arms and the back.

Chest pain can be a sign of a serious condition so it’s important to seek medical care if you are experiencing chest pain.

What are the symptoms of chest pain?

Chest pain symptoms can feel different depending on what’s causing the pain. Sometimes, it can be very hard to tell the difference between heart-related chest pain and chest pain caused by a problem in the lung, esophagus, ribs or muscles for example.

Chest pain related to your heart

Discomfort caused by a heart attack or heart problem is typically described as:

However, it is important to note that while these are the ‘typical’ or ‘text book’ symptoms, in reality the presentation and symptoms of heart attack can vary a lot from one person to another, and between men and women.

Other features that may occur with a heart attack can include:

If you think you could be having a heart attack, do not ignore the symptoms. Seek urgent medical care.

Other chest pain symptoms

What causes chest pain?

Chest pain has many possible causes including:

Digestive issues

  • Heartburn or reflux
  • Gallstones
  • Pancreatitis
  • Gastritis

Lung issues

  • Asthma
  • Pneumonia
  • Blood clot in the lung (‘pulmonary embolism’).
  • Pleurisy
  • Collapsed lung
  • Pulmonary hypertension

Other issues

  • Bruised or broken ribs
  • Panic attack
  • Shingles
  • Aortic dissection (tearing of the aorta)

How is chest pain diagnosed?

To diagnose chest pain, your health care provider may perform a series of tests that can include:

How is chest pain treated?

Treatment varies depending on what’s causing the chest pain. Life-threatening chest pain from a heart attack can require urgent medical intervention including stents, angioplasty or bypass surgery.

When should I see a doctor about my chest pain?

Above all, remember that chest pain should never be ignored. When in doubt, immediately call your doctor about any chest pain, especially if it comes on suddenly.

Call Triple Zero (000) if you have any of these symptoms along with chest pain:

Acknowledgement of Country

The Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land, the Gadigal of the Eora nation, on which we meet, work, and discover.
Our Western Australian laboratories pay their respect to the Whadjuk Noongar who remain as the spiritual and cultural custodians of their land.

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