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Potential reasons for chest pains

Reviewed by David Johnson, MD
Potential reasons for chest pains

There are many potential causes of chest pains from a heart attack to heart burn. Familiarize yourself with some more of the causes so that you what action is required.

Heart Attacks



The most serious of the potential causes of chest pains is a heart attack. In most cases other symptoms will accompany this. These may include:

  • A feeling of pressure on the chest
  • Excessive sweating
  • Shortness of breath
  • Vomiting or nausea or a combination of the two
  • Pain or pressure in the back, jaw, neck or one or both shoulders or arms
  • Lightheadedness
  • Sudden weakness
  • An irregular heartbeat



If you experience any of these symptoms, seek emergency medical assistance. After phoning for an ambulance and describing your symptoms, the operator will probably advise you to take an aspirin while you wait for the ambulance to arrive. If treatment is provided fast enough damage to the heart muscle can be prevented. Chest pains are the most common and often the earliest symptom of a heart attack. Women, more so than men go on to develop pain in other areas including the back and jaw as well as suffer from other symptoms such as shortness of breath. If the chest pains get worse during exercise or stress then it may be a sign of heart disease and once again, medical attention should be sought immediately. Under these circumstances never attempt to drive yourself to the hospital as this can put yourself as well as others in danger.


Other causes of chest pains



Naturally anyone who suffers from pains in the chest tends to jump to the conclusion that it is something to do with the heart. However, in many people, especially those who are under the age of 40, this is not the case. There are a great number of health problems and conditions, of which chest pains is one of the symptoms. Some examples include:

  • An increase in physical activity undertaken can sometimes lead to pain in the chest muscles and bones. This is known as chest wall pain.
  • If you experience a burning pain in the chest when you cough it is probably down to a viral respiratory infection.
  • Injuries suffered in the area such as a broken rib can be very painful, particularly if you try to take a deep breath or cough
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, often known as GERD, commonly causes heartburn. This is a pain or burning sensation just below the breastbone that can usually be relieved by taking antacid.
  • Shingles is another cause of chest pains and is often accompanied by a rash.
  • Chest pains may also be experienced if the individual is suffering from a condition known as pleurisy. This is when the thin layers of tissue covering the lungs and chest wall become inflamed or swollen.



All of the above conditions can be treated if promptly seen to by a medical professional. As with most health conditions, if they are left untreated for a prolonged period of time, it is possible for complications to occur. Along with these causes of chest pains, there are some more potential causes which are considered more serious and will require emergency assistance should they occur:

  • A collapsed lung, known medically as a pneumothorax will cause a sharp, stabbing pain on the chest along with a shortness of breath.
  • A pulmonary embolism is when a blood clot occurs in the lung. This will also cause a sudden and extreme shortness of breath accompanied with a pain deep in the chest.
  • Lung cancer can also lead to chest pains, particularly if the cancerous cells have spread to the ribs.
  • Diseases affecting the spine can additionally cause pain in the chest if the spinal nerves become pinched.

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