Chest Pain

Not all chest pain signals a heart attack, but tightness in the chest and chest discomfort might signal heart conditions.

Chest pain might be an indication of severe heart conditions.

While one’s first instinct is to wonder if a pain in the chest is a heart attack, it is helpful to understand that there are many causes for chest pain.

Chest Pain

Chest pain may feel like a sharp, stabbing, burning, dull, or squeezing sensation and may be caused by problems in the lungs, oesophagus, muscles, ribs or nerves. The severity of these conditions ranges from insignificant to life-threatening.

Although many causes of chest pain are harmless, you should seek medical advice if you have any type of unexplained chest pain to rule out the possibility of serious heart problems. 

Causes of Chest Pain

Some causes of chest pain are not related to the heart at all. These include muscular, lung or gastrointestinal conditions. A pulled muscle or trauma due to muscle strain caused by exercise or excessive coughing, a fall, an accident or a blow to the body can result in bruised muscles or fractured ribs that cause pain in the chest.

Anxiety or stress can also constrict the chest and result in pain or tightness in the chest, dizziness, shortness of breath and rapid heartbeat (called palpitations).

Lung infections, such as pneumonia, can cause chest pain when the membrane covering the lungs becomes inflamed, causing pain when you breathe, cough or sneeze. Typically, these infections are accompanied by high fever, chills and cough.

Gastrointestinal problems, such as acid reflux or heartburn, can result in a sour taste in the mouth and a burning sensation in the chest or throat. Although the condition is not connected to the heart, the pain can seem similar because the heart and oesophagus are near each other and share a nerve network.

Heart Conditions and Chest Pain

Various heart conditions can also result in chest pain:

  • Angina is caused by a blockage of the blood vessels in the heart. Angina pain feels like a squeezing pressure in the chest. It can be triggered by exercise, excitement, or emotional distress. The pain can be improved with rest.
  • Heart attacks occur when blood flow to the heart is stopped or severely limited, starving the cells. When the cells die, intense pain occurs.
  • Heart infections, such as myocarditis or pericarditis, cause chest pain. Myocarditis is an infection of the heart muscle, while pericarditis is an infection of the sac around the heart.

While the cause may be benign, don't take chances. According to the Singapore Heart Foundation, in 2013, cardiovascular disease was responsible for one in three deaths, making it one of the top disease killers in Singapore.

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Chest Pain

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