Types of Chest Pains, Causes & Heart Attack

When you feel any form of pain in your chest, the first thing that usually comes to mind, even while suffering the discomfort and pain is, ‘Am I having a heart attack?’

This is what often causes people to panic and seek medical help.

You should always seek emergency help from someone when you feel any form of pain that could be associated with a heart attack.


But having chest pain doesn’t always mean you are having a heart attack.

There are various causes of chest pain along with different forms of chest pain which range widely and include the following:

  • Crushing
  • Palpitations
  • Intermittent
  • Burning
  • Constant
  • Aching
  • Tearing
  • Ripping
  • Squeezing
  • Tightness
  • Dull
  • Sharp
  • Stabbing

Fortunately, scientists have documented the most common types of chest pains, along with their causes.

Here is a discussion on different types of chest pains and their causes:

Chest Pain Caused By Cardiac Problems:

Chest pain caused by heart problems can be quite alarming for many, as the primary source of chest pain we are aware of is a heart attack.

While there are some cardiac problems, like a heart attack, which require immediate medical assistance, most chest pains are usually not life-threatening.

However, if you are unsure, it’s always advised to dial 911 and seek help immediately.

Here is a list of heart problems which cause chest pain:

  • Coronary artery disease causes sharp pain, called angina, which starts in the chest and may spread to the arms, shoulders, upper back, jaw and even the back of the chest. This problem causes a reduction in blood flow to the heart and can be due to working too hard, exercising, climbing flights of stairs quickly or emotional stress.
  • Arterial dissection caused by hypertension can damage the major blood vessels connected to the heart which can cause severe chest pain like a heart attack and can be classified as a medical emergency.
  • Myocardial infarction, also known as the heart attack causes crushing or squeezing pain as well as tightness in the chest and is a serious medical emergency. This problem causes a significant reduction or even a complete blockage of blood flow to a part of the heart muscle.
  • Myocarditis is caused by damage due to the inflammation of the heart muscles and results in shortness of breath and palpitations in the chest as well as discomfort in the chest region.
  • Arrhythmias or having abnormal heartbeats can cause weakness and breathing difficulties with slow heartbeats and signs of palpitation for those with fast heartbeats.

Myocardial Infarction

Chest Pain Caused By Nerve Disorders:

Nerve disorders like shingles are caused by Herpes zoster virus where the chickenpox infection can reactivate after years and can cause sharp pain on one side of the chest.

The disease usually follows the nerve distribution where it causes nerve pain and can later cause shingle rash to appear on the sides of the chest.

Chest Pain Caused By Problems In The GI Tract:

The gastrointestinal tract has sections which are situated in the chest region which can cause chest pain when problems arise.

Here are the most common GI problems which result in symptoms of chest pain:

  • Hiatal hernia causes a burning discomfort where a part of the stomach is pushed up through the diaphragm muscle.
  • Cholecystitis is the inflammation of the gallbladder which can result in constant or intermittent chest pain.
  • GERD or Gastroesophageal reflux disease is when digestive juices flow into the esophagus causing discomfort and pain in the chest.
  • Pancreatitis or pancreatic cancer can cause constant pain in the upper abdominal or lower chest which can increase during eating.
  • Inflammation, perforation or the rupture of the esophagus can result in chest pain when swallowing and breathing.


Chest Pain Caused By Muscle Damage:

If the muscles in the chest are damaged during trauma or injury, chest pain can be felt continuously or intermittent depending on the muscle damage and the level of injury caused.

Supportive components of these muscles like ligaments which are also injured can also cause chest pain.

Chest Pain Caused By Pulmonary Problems:

Lung problems can cause chest pains when combined with other conditions. Here is a list of lung-related problems that cause chest pains:

  • Pulmonary embolism is a blood clot in the pulmonary artery that can cause sharp, burning, aching or stabbing pain in the chest along with shortness of breath and discomfort.
  • Pneumonia is an acute infection where the air sacs in the lungs fill up with fluid, leading to stabbing or sharp pains when breathing.
  • Pleurisy is described as the inflammation of the membrane which covers the whole lungs. This problem can cause localized pain in the chest with breathing or coughing.
  • A collapsed lung can cause sudden and sharp pain in the side of the chest of the collapsed lung along with constant shortness of breath.
  • Pulmonary hypertension causes chest pain or chest pressure due to increased pressure in the pulmonary arteries.

Chest Pain Caused By Psychological Problems:

There are some psychological problems and disorders which cause chest pain where the person suffers sharp chest pains, discomfort, tightness in the chest, shortness of breath, rapid breathing, sweating or dizziness.

These types of chest pains are usually associated with anxiety, fear or a sense of doom in the person.

The list of psychological problems which lead to the above-mentioned chest pains include:

  • Mental stress
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Paranoia

Anxiety And Chest Pain

Chest Pain Caused By Bone Problems:

There are bone problems that can cause chest pain including:

  • Rib fractures or a crack in the sternum can cause chest pain, especially when taking a deep breath as the broken bones move and rub together.
  • Costochondritis is a condition where the junctions between the ribs and sternum are inflamed, causing pain when breathing deeply or moving in certain directions.
  • Rib cancer can cause dull chest pain in the affected bone area along with tenderness.

Remember to call for help or assistance by dialing 911 if you suffer from severe chest pains or if you are having shortness of breath.

While this list is informative, it is not advised to self-diagnose chest pain.

If you suffer from continuous chest pains, it’s advised to consult your doctor by describing the symptoms accurately.

Now that we have listed the major types of chest pains and their causes, you can be better prepared if you ever have to deal with chest pain.

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About Michelle 59 Articles
Michelle is the senior most expert who writes for this website. After completing her graduation and 10+ years of practice, Michelle has been involved and known for a lot of her philanthropy work. Michelle loves spending time researching and writing her papers. She occasionally writes for us and we are extremely proud to have her as one of our editors. Follow me on Linkedin

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