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Why Am I Having Chest Pain?

by | May 11, 2021 | Resources

What is chest pain?

Chest pain can be felt anywhere in the chest area, from the shoulder to the bottom of your ribs.


When is chest pain serious?

Chest pain can sometimes indicate a severe underlying problem, so it should be taken seriously. It would be best if you discussed any new, severe, or persistent chest pain with your doctor.


What causes chest pain?

There are many possible causes of chest pain.

The common causes of chest pain can include:

  • Angina – pain that occurs during exertion due to narrowing of the coronary arteries, which supply oxygenated blood to the heart muscle allowing it to pump effectively
  • Heart attack – severe pain that can be brought on by exertion, or whilst resting, and remains due to blocking of a coronary artery which supplies blood to the heart muscle
  • Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease – a burning sensation in the lower chest and upper abdomen due to a build-up of acid in the stomach or inflammation of the oesophagus (gullet/food pipe)
  • Costochondritis – inflammation of the joints which attach the ribs to the breastbone (sternum), and the breastbone to the collar bones (clavicles)
  • Chest wall muscle strain – pain due to over-exertion of the muscles of the chest, for example, from heavy lifting, straining, sudden movement, or prolonged coughing
  • Anxiety – chest pain can develop due to feeling particularly worried or upset


The less common causes of chest pain can include:

  • Pleurisy – sharp and stabbing chest pain which is worse on breathing in, caused by inflammation of the pleura (a thin membrane that lines the lungs and the chest wall)
  • Pulmonary embolism – sharp chest pain when breathing in, along with coughing up blood and feeling out of breath, caused by a blockage of one of the blood vessels in the lungs
  • Pneumothorax – sudden stabbing chest pain on one side along with breathlessness, caused by air trapped between the lung and chest wall
  • Peptic Ulcer – pain in the upper abdomen below the breastbone due to an ulcer in the lining of the upper gut caused by stomach acid
  • Shingles – pain and a rash over a specific strip of skin on the chest wall due to infection of a nerve and the area of skin it supplies

When should I see a doctor for chest pain?

Seek medical help immediately if you have:

  • Chest pain that is severe
  • Chest pain lasting more than 15 minutes
  • Chest pain that is crushing or squeezing in the middle of your chest
  • Chest pain along with any of the following symptoms:
    • Pain spreading to the neck, jaw, or one or both shoulders or arms
    • Sweating
    • Shortness of breath
    • Feeling sick (nausea) or being sick (vomiting)
    • Feeling dizzy or light-headed
    • Fast or irregular pulse


What can I do about my chest pain?

    • These could be useful if your chest pain is caused by feeling anxious and could include mindfulness, meditation, or deep-breathing exercises
    • If you are overweight, you should try and lose weight, as this can reduce your risk of developing heart disease and diabetes
    • Having a healthy balanced diet has many benefits, including helping you lose weight, as well as reducing your risk of heart disease and diabetes
    • To improve fitness and the health of your heart and lungs. Always see your doctor before starting a new exercise regime
    • Regular exercise keeps the heart and lungs healthy by increasing your body’s ability to take oxygen in and pump it around the body via the blood
    • Ask your GP or pharmacist for advice
    • If your doctor has identified a cause for your chest pain and prescribed medications, take these as directed



Patient.info: Chest Pain

NHS Choices: Chest Pain



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