Symptoms and Signs of Chest Pain

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 5/24/2020

Doctor's Notes on Chest Pain

Chest pain is discomfort and/or soreness in or around the chest. It can cardiac (heart related) or non- cardiac. Signs and symptoms of cardiac pain are chest discomfort that may include

  • pressure,
  • squeezing,
  • heaviness,
  •  soreness and/or
  • burning, often associated with shortness of breath.

The pain can range from dull to stabbing and may be located anywhere in the chest (classically, left chest), upper abdomen, back, neck, jaw, left arm (sometimes both arms, especially in women) and shoulders. Cardiac chest pain in women may experience more nausea and vomiting plus lightheadedness. Chest pains can be symptoms of a life-threatening heart attack; 911 should be called. Non-cardiac chest pains may have, unfortunately, one or more of the above signs or symptoms; however, non-cardiac chest pain may change (quality and/or intensity) with respiration, cough or position and cardiac causes usually do not. If you cannot tell if chest pain is cardiac or non-cardiac, call 911.

The cause of cardiac chest pain is blockage of blood to cardiac muscles that become stressed, damaged or killed due to lack of oxygen.

Non-cardiac chest pain can have wide range of potential causes including

If you are unsure about a condition causing non-cardiac chest pain, you should see your doctor for a diagnosis because even some non-cardiac causes of chest pain can be life-threatening.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.