Why does my chest hurt? 26 Causes of Chest Pain & Tightness

When talking about Chest pain the first thing that comes to mind is heart attack. Surely chest pain is not something to be ignored and there should information that it has many possible causes. Problems in lungs, esophagus, muscles, ribs, or nerves, for example can also be a cause of chest pain. Some of these problems are […]
When talking about Chest pain the first thing that comes to mind is heart attack. Surely chest pain is not something to be ignored and there should information that it has many possible causes. Problems in lungs, esophagus, muscles, ribs, or nerves, for example can also be a cause of chest pain. Some of these problems are serious and can be life threatening, others may not. For the explanation of unknown chest pain, the only way is to consult the doctor who can examine the problemChest pain can be felt anywhere from the neck to the upper abdomen. Depending on its cause, chest pain may be:

  • Sharp
  • Dull
  • Burning
  • Aching
  • Stabbing
  • A sensation which can be tight, squeezing, or crushing


Chest Pain Causes: Heart Problems

The heart problems are common causes not only the cause of chest pain:

A blockage in the heart blood vessels that decreases blood flow and oxygen to the heart muscle itself is known as coronary artery disease or CAD. Angina is the pain caused by this which is a symptom of heart disease but generally does not cause damage which is permanent to the heart. It can be a sign for a heart attack at some point in the future for the candidate. Arm, shoulder, jaw, or back are areas where the chest pain can spread. Pressure or squeezing sensation may be felt. Exercise, excitement, or emotional distress can be triggers for angina and is relieved by rest.


The reduction in blood flow through heart blood vessels causes the death of heart muscle cells can be the cause of myocardial infarction or heart attack. Though it is same as angina chest pain, a heart attack can generally be more severe, crushing pain caused usually in the center or left side of the chest and is not relieved by rest. Pain can be accompanied by Sweating, nausea, shortness of breath, or severe weakness

In addition to chest pain, this heart muscle inflammation can cause symptoms such as fever, fatigue, fast heartbeat, and trouble breathing resulting in myocarditis. Although no blockade exists, resemble of a heart attack can be because of myocarditis symptoms.

An inflammation or infection caused of the sac around the heart known as pericarditis. It can cause pain same as that to the pain caused by angina. However, a pain is often caused which may be sharp, steady pain along the upper neck and shoulder muscle. Breathing, swallowing food, or lying on the back may sometimes get worse.

The genetic disease which causes the heart muscle to grow abnormally thick is known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy which sometimes leads to problems with flow of the blood out of the heart. Exercise may be the reason for chest pain and shortness of breath often. Over the period of time, when the heart muscle becomes very thickened heart failure may occur which makes the heart work harder to pump blood. This type of cardiomyopathy may cause dizziness, lightheadedness, fainting, and other symptoms along with the chest pain.

A condition in which a valve in the heart fails to close properly is known as mitral valve prolapse. Vitral valve prolapse may have various symptoms associated, including chest pain, palpitations, and dizziness, although it can also have no symptoms, especially if the prolapse is mild.

This rare but deadly condition can be caused by a variety of factors, which results when a tear is developed in the coronary artery known as coronary artery dissection. Severe pain may be caused suddenly with a tearing or ripping sensation that goes up into the neck, back, or abdomen.

Chest Pain Causes: Lung Problems

A variety of forms of chest pain can be cause of lung problems. Common causes of chest pain are:

Pleuritis which is also known as pleurisy, is a condition in which an inflammation or irritation of the lining of the lungs and chest occurs. A sharp pain is felt when breathing, coughing, or sneezing. Bacterial or viral infections, pulmonary embolism, and pneumothorax are the most common causes of pleuritic chest pain. Other less known causes include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and cancer.

Pneumonia or lung abscess which are infections of the lungs can cause pleuritic and other types of chest pain, such as a deep chest ache. Pneumonia often occurs suddenly, causing fever, chills, cough, and pus coughed up from the respiratory tract.


Pulmonary embolism is when a blood clot travels through the bloodstream and enters in the lungs which can cause acute pleuritis, trouble in breathing, and a rapid heartbeat. It may also cause fever and shock may also be caused. Deep vein thrombosis or being immobile for several days following surgery or as a complication of cancer is more likely to result from pulmonary embolism.

Pneumothorax occurs when a part of the lung collapses, releasing air into the chest cavity which is caused often by an injury to the chest. Pain can also be caused that gets worse when breathing as well as other symptoms, such as low blood pressure.

The abnormally high blood pressure in the lung arteries makes the right side of the heart work too hard resembling to that of angina also known as pulmonary hypertension.

Shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, and sometimes chest pain are caused, asthma is an inflammatory disorder of the airways.

Chest Pain Causes: Gastrointestinal Problems

Chest pain can be also caused due to gastrointestinal problems which may include

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) which is also known as acid reflux, when stomach contents move back into the throat GERD occurs. A sour taste in the mouth and a burning sensation in the chest or throat, known as heartburn may be caused. Obesity, smoking, pregnancy, and spicy or fatty foods are factors that may be triggers to acid reflux. Heart pain and heartburn from acid reflux feel the same partially because the heart and esophagus are located close to each other and share a nerve network.

Uncoordinated muscle contractions (spasms) and high-pressure contractions (nutcracker esophagus) are problems in the esophagus that can cause chest pain known as esophageal contraction disorders.

When the esophagus becomes very painful at the smallest change in pressure or exposure to acid esophageal hypersensitivity may occur. The cause of this sensitivity is not known.

A sudden, severe chest pain following vomiting or a procedure involving the esophagus may be the sign for a esophageal rupture or perforation

A vague recurring discomfort may be the outcome of painful sores in the lining of the stomach or first part of the small intestine known as peptic ulcers. More common in people who smoke, drink a lot of alcohol, or take pain-killers such as aspirin or NSAID’s have peptic ulcers to be common, the pain often gets better when eating or taking antacids.

The common problem occurs when the top of the stomach pushes into the lower chest after eating is known as hiatal hernia. Reflux symptoms are often caused, including heartburn or chest pain. When lying down, the pain tends to get worse.

If having pain in the lower chest that is often worse when lying flat and becomes better when leaning forward can be a sign of having pancreatitis.

Gallbladder problems. After eating a fatty meal, having a sensation of fullness or pain in the right lower chest area or the right upper side of the abdomen may be sign that the chest pain is because of gallbladder problems

Chest Pain Causes: Bone, Muscle, or Nerve Problems

Sometimes chest pain may be the outcome of overuse or an injury to the chest area from a fall or from an accident. Cause of pain in the chest area can also be viruses. Other causes of chest pain may include:

Deep breathing or coughing may worsen the pain from a rib fracture. It is often restricted to one area and may feel sore when pressing on it. Inflammation can also be caused to the area where the ribs join the breastbone

The muscles can be injured or inflamed even by really coughing hard and tendons between the ribs and cause chest pain. The pain tends to continue and it gets worse with activity.

Shingles which is caused by the varicella zoster virus, may prompt a sharp, band-like pain before a telltale rash appears several days later.


Other Potential Causes

Anxiety and panic attacks are other potential causes of chest pain. Some related symptoms can include dizziness, sensation of shortness of breath, palpitations, tingling sensations, and trembling.

When to See the Doctor for Chest Pain

Doctor should be contacted when having doubt about any chest pain, especially if it comes on suddenly or is not relieved by anti-inflammatory medications or other self-care steps, such as changing diet.

Call 911 if having any of the below symptoms along with chest pain:

  • Suddenly feeling of pressure, squeezing, tightness, or crushing under the breastbone
  • Chest pain spreading to the jaw, left arm, or back
  • Sharp chest pain which is sudden with shortness of breath, especially after a long period of inactivity
  • Nausea, dizziness, rapid heart rate or rapid breathing, confusion, ashen color, or excessive sweating
  • Blood pressure or heart rate which are very low


Doctor should be contacted if having any of the below symptoms:

  • Fever, chills, or coughing up yellow-green mucus
  • Problems swallowing
  • Severe chest pain that does not go away


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