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Chest pain

Most chest pain is not a sign of anything serious but get medical advice just in case. Get immediate medical help if you think you're having a heart attack.

Immediate action required: Call 999 if:

  • you get sudden pain or discomfort in your chest that does not go away – the pain can feel like squeezing or pressure inside your chest, burning or indigestion
  • you get pain that spreads to your left or right arm, or your neck, jaw, stomach or back
  • you have chest pain and you feel sweaty, sick, light headed or short of breath

You could be having a heart attack. Call 999 straight away as you need immediate treatment in hospital.

Non-urgent advice: See a GP 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. In most cases, chest pain is not caused by a heart problem.

Your symptoms might give you an idea of the cause. Do not self-diagnose – see a GP if you're worried.

Chest pain symptoms and possible causes
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, may get worse when you breathe in, feels better when resting the muscle

Chest sprain or strain

An often sharp, continuous pain triggered by worries or a stressful situation, heartbeat gets faster, sweating, dizziness

Anxiety, depression or panic attack

Gets worse when you breathe in, coughing up yellow or green mucus, high temperature

Chest infection, pneumonia or pleurisy

Tingling feeling on skin, skin rash appears that turns into blisters


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 are at risk of coronary heart disease.

For example, you may be at risk of coronary heart disease if you:

Page last reviewed: 08 August 2023
Next review due: 08 August 2026