Chest pain can be the result of serious heart problems which require urgent medical treatment.

By Wallace Health I Medically reviewed by Adrian Roberts.
Page last reviewed: October 2018 I Next review due: October 2021

Summary

Sudden pain in your chest can be a symptom of a life-threatening condition such as a heart attack. Other heart attack symptoms include:

  • Pain in other parts of your body (sometimes it feels as if the pain is travelling from your chest elsewhere)
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Sweating
  • Breathlessness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Coughing or wheezing

Call 999 immediately if you think you’re having a heart attack.

You’re at a higher risk of heart problems if you’re older and you:

You should see your GP urgently if you have chest pain so any underlying conditions can be diagnosed and treated.

However, chest pain, including chest pain that comes and goes, can also be caused by minor or easily treatable conditions.

Causes of chest pain

There are many different reasons for chest pain. Severe or tight chest pain can be a symptom of angina, which can be successfully treated.

Sharp chest pain when breathing can be a sign of pericarditis, which isn’t usually serious but must be checked.

A burning pain in your chest after eating might be heartburn, which can be a stomach ulcer symptom.

If your chest pain improves when relaxed, and you’ve been exercising or lifting, you might have strained a chest muscle.

Chest pain may be a panic attack if you’re feeling stressed along with:

Chest pain can also be a symptom of ankylosing spondylitis.

Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about symptoms

You can book an appointment with a Spire private GP today.

Book an appointment

Getting a diagnosis for chest pain

If you notice sudden, unexpected or new chest pain, call 999 immediately. It’s vital that the cause of your chest pain is diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.

If you’ve had chest pain for some time or chest pain that comes and goes, see your GP. They'll ask about your symptoms and may examine your chest and listen to your heart.

Your GP may refer you for further investigations, including:

  • Blood tests – to check for signs of heart problems
  • Chest X-ray – to look for lung conditions, including pneumonia
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG) – to measure your heart’s rhythm and electrical activity
  • Endoscopy – to check for digestive problems
  • MRI scan/CT scan – to provide a detailed view of your heart
  • Myocardial perfusion scintigraphy – to assist with a diagnosis of angina

Your GP may also refer you to a consultant for further assessment, diagnosis and treatment.

Treatments for chest pain

You can reduce your risk of heart problems, including having a heart attack, by:

  • Losing any excess weight
  • Adopting a healthy lifestyle – eat a healthy, balanced diet and take regular exercise
  • Stopping smoking
  • Keeping your blood pressure at a healthy level - cut down on caffeine, limit salt intake, keep within the recommended limits for alcohol and aim for at least six hours of sleep every night

Your treatment will depend on the underlying cause of your chest pain, but may involve medication and/or surgery. Your doctor will discuss your treatment options with you and, after considering your health and preferences, decide which is best.

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