chest pain- George Morris Physio Wigan

Pain in chest: How to tell if chest pain is something serious

George Morris Physio Wigan

Pain in chest: How to tell if chest pain is something serious

PAIN IN the chest can be caused by many different things, some of which pose no health risk while other causes can be more serious. So how do you know if your chest pain is something to be concerned about?

Some people experience regular pain in the chest area, caused by things like heartburn and indigestion, which pose no real threat to health.

Most chest pain isn’t a sign of something serious, but in some cases it can be associated with heart problems.

Some people won’t realise the pain they are feeling in their chest is something to be concerned about.

For example, the pain experienced during a heart attack can sometimes be confused with the symptoms of indigestion.

Here’s how you can tell what may be causing your chest pain, although the NHS advises not to self-diagnose but see your GP if you’re worried.

Heartburn or indigestion

The pain associated with heartburn or indigestion usually starts after eating and may occur alongside food or bitter tasting fluids being brought up. A feeling of fullness or bloating is often also present.

Chest sprain or strain

With a chest sprain, pain in the chest will start after the chest injury or exercise, but feels better when the muscle is rested.

Anxiety or panic attack

Chest pain associated with panic attacks is triggered by worries or a stressful situation, and causes the heartbeat to get faster. Sweating and dizziness may also occur.

Chest infection or pneumonia

With a chest infection or pneumonia, pain gets worse when breathing in and out, and you may cough up mucus and have a high temperature.


As well as pain in the chest, shingles cause a tingling feeling on the skin, as well as skin rashes that turn into blisters.


Pericarditis is a heart problem which is not usually serious but can cause complications. It usually causes a sudden, sharp, stabbing pain that gets worse when breathing deeply or lying down.


Angina is chest pain caused by reduced blood flow to the heart. It’s not usually life threatening but is a warning sign you could be at risk of a heart attack or stroke.

Chest pain usually feels tight, dull or heavy and may spread to the left arm, neck, jaw or back. It can be triggered by physical exertion or stress and stops within a few minutes of resting.

Heart attack

Finally, a heart attack has similar symptoms to angina, but is life-threatening.

The NHS advises calling 999 if you experience chest pain which spreads to the arms, back neck or jaw, if it started with shortness of breath, sweating or being sick, and if it lasts more than 15 minutes.

“Most chest pain isn't a sign of anything serious but you should get medical advice just in case. Get immediate medical help if you think you're having a heart attack,” said the NHS.

“Your symptoms might give you an idea of the cause. Don't self-diagnose – see your GP if you're worried.”

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