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.
Call 999 if you have sudden chest pain that:
- spreads to your arms, back, neck or jaw
- makes your chest feel tight or heavy
- also started with shortness of breath, sweating and feeling or being sick
- lasts more than 15 minutes
You could be having a heart attack. Call 999 immediately as you need immediate treatment in hospital.
See a GP or go to your local walk-in centre if:
- you have chest pain that comes and goes
- you have chest pain that goes away quickly but you're still worried
It's important to get medical advice to make sure it's nothing serious.
Common causes of chest pain
Chest pain has many different causes – only the most common are listed below. In most cases, chest pain is not caused by a heart problem.
Your symptoms might give you an idea of the cause. Don't self-diagnose – see your GP if you're worried.
|Chest pain symptoms||Possible cause|
|Starts after eating, bringing up food or bitter tasting fluids, feeling full and bloated||heartburn or indigestion|
|Starts after chest injury or chest exercise, feels better when resting the muscle||chest sprain or strain|
|Triggered by worries or a stressful situation, heartbeat gets faster, sweating, dizziness||anxiety or panic attack|
|Gets worse when you breathe in and out, coughing up yellow or green mucus, high temperature||chest infection or pneumonia|
|Tingling feeling on skin, skin rash appears that turns into blisters||shingles|
Chest pain and heart problems
The most common heart problems that cause chest pain include:
- pericarditis – which usually causes a sudden, sharp, stabbing pain that gets worse when you breathe deeply or lie down
- angina or a heart attack – which have similar symptoms but a heart attack is life-threatening
You're more likely to have heart problems if you're older or know you're at risk of coronary heart disease.
For example, if you:
- are very overweight (obese)
- have high blood pressure, diabetes or high cholesterol
- have a history of heart attacks or angina in family members under 60 years old
Page last reviewed: 10/08/2017
Next review due: 09/08/2020