Definition of Chest Pain

Chest Pain Center Accreditation

 What is chest pain?

Chest pain is any discomfort between your abdomen and your neck. The discomfort may stay in your chest. It may radiate (move or travel) to other places, such as your arms, neck, jaws, stomach, shoulder or back. Your discomfort may feel like pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in your chest. Your chest pain may be sharp or dull. The discomfort may range from mild to severe. You may have other symptoms with your chest pain, such as nausea or vomiting.

What causes chest pain?

There are many things that can cause chest pain. Also, certain things may trigger it to start, such as eating a spicy meal. Your chest pain may even come and go for no reason that you know of. Some chest pain may return often and be bothersome to you, but it may not be dangerous. However, it can sometimes be a sign of a serious health condition. You may not know what is causing your chest pain until you are seen at a hospital or clinic.


signs that your chest pain is serious


  • Any new chest pain that is severe or that lasts for 15 minutes or longer
  • Feeling light headed, dizzy, weak or faint
  • Sudden sweating for no reason that you no of
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • New or worsening trouble with thinking clearly or speaking
  • Any new numbness, tingling or loss of movement in any part of your body
  • Coughing up blood
  • New or worsening trouble breathing


Some causes of chest pain include the following:

  • Blood or circulation problems: High blood pressure or anemia (iron-poor blood) may cause chest pain. Another cause may be an aneurysm, which is a weak part in an artery (blood vessel) wall. Aneurysms can be serious, even life-threatening. Atherosclerosis or "hardening of the arteries" may cause chest pain. Atherosclerosis is a disease that causes fatty deposits to narrow arteries in your body and increase your risk of blood clots.
  • Anxiety, depression or panic attacks: Panic attacks may cause chest pain that feels like you have a serious health problem, even though it is not life-threatening. Hyperventilation (breathing too fast) can also cause bad chest pain. People who have depression may have chest pain or heaviness.
  • Bone, nerve or muscle problems: Examples include arthritis and other inflammation (swelling) problems, hard coughing and overdoing exercise. Herpes zoster (shingles) can cause chest pain. Injuries, such as from a car accident or a blow to the chest, may also cause pain in the chest.
  • Lung problems: Examples include infections (such as bronchitis) or inflammation (swelling) in or around a lung. A blood clot in a lung or lung diseases may cause chest pain. Breathing in smoke or fumes can cause chest pain.
  • Heart (cardiac) problems: Chest pain because of a heart problem may be life-threatening and requires emergency medical care. Only a medical caregiver can say for sure if your chest pain is caused by a heart problem or not. Almost any heart problem can cause chest pain, for example, heart valve problems, heart rhythm problems, heart enlargement and heart failure.
  • Digestive tract problems: Acid reflux, ulcers or other stomach and esophagus (food pipe) problems may cause chest pain. Problems with too much gas in your stomach or intestines, or other digestion problems, may cause chest pain. Gallbladder or pancreas problems may also cause chest pain.
  • Other problems: Taking illegal (street) drugs, such as cocaine, or misusing certain medicines may cause chest pain. Certain diseases such as lupus may cause pain in the chest, as well as tumors (growths) in your chest or abdomen. Problems with almost any organ in your chest or abdomen may cause chest pain.