Chest pain

Chest pain is a broad term for any pain, tightness or discomfort felt in the chest area. In most cases it is something minor and goes away. However, it can be serious so if you have new symptoms of chest pain, you should seek medical help right now. In New Zealand, ring Healthline on 0800 611 116.

What causes chest pain?

There are many causes of chest pain ranging from sore muscles, prolonged coughing, costochondritis (an inflammation of joints in your chest) or indigestion through to panic attacks, heart, lung, back, shoulder or gall bladder problems.  

The reason chest pain is important is even mild chest tightness or discomfort can be the first sign of something more serious such as a heart attack or clot in the lung.

Your heart forecast

These are some of the serious causes of chest pain which need to be excluded:

  • pulmonary embolus (a clot in one of the blood vessels in the lungs)
  • angina (pain from the heart due to reduced blood supply)
  • a heart attack (blockage of one of the blood vessels supplying the heart)
  • percarditis (inflammation around your heart
  • pneumonia
  • a tear in an artery in your heart
  • lung cancer or other cancers.

What do I do if I have chest pain? 

1. Get immediate medical care if you have chest pain that does not go away, crushing pain or pressure in the chest, or chest pain along with nausea, sweating, dizziness or shortness of breath. In New Zealand, ring 111. 

2. Do NOT diagnose yourself from this information or anything you find on the internet. Also do not just talk with family or friends. You need to talk to a health professional who can give you proper advice.

3. Ring for advice now if: 

  • you don't know what is causing your chest pain
  • the pain gets worse or new symptoms develop
  • your pain or chest discomfort could be angina.
  • In New Zealand, call Healthline 0800 611 116 if you are unsure what you should do.

Treatment

Treatment depends on the cause of the pain so do not just take an indigestion tablet and hope it will go away. 

  • If you get panic attacks, follow your panic attack action plan. 
  • If you get angina, follow your angina/chest pain action plan. 
  • If you have acid reflux problems, follow the advice you have been given and get help if this doesn't settle as expected. 
  • Advice needs to be tailored for you. 

Learn more

Credits: Health Navigator team.