Not all chest pain signals a heart attack, but tightness in the chest and chest discomfort might signal 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 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.
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.
Various heart conditions can also result in chest pain:
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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This article was last reviewed on
Wednesday, November 22, 2023
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