Expert Care by ER Physicians

Common Causes of Chest Pain

Posted by The Urgency Room on Friday, February 2, 2018
Updated on: Wednesday, February 7, 2018
Keywords: chest pain

Chest pain is one of the more common symptoms that requires people to receive medical attention. When most people think about chest pain, their minds immediately leap to heart attacks. While chest pain is a symptom of suffering a heart attack, more times than not chest pain indicates an issue that is not related to the heart. Chest pain can be caused by health issues in your lungs, esophagus, muscles, ribs, or nerves.

Chest pain can be be experienced anywhere from a person’s neck to the upper portion of their abdomen. Chest pain can feel like the following:

  • Crushing
  • Squeezing
  • Ripping
  • Stabbing
  • Tightness
  • Burning
  • Aching
  • Sharp
  • Dull
  • Constant
  • Intermittent

To help you identify the source of your chest pain, and to provide you with a suggested treatment solution, here’s a list of common causes of chest pain that we see here at the Urgency Room.

Heart Problems that Cause Chest Pain

There’s a variety of serious causes for chest pain that are related to your heart. They include:

  • Heart Attack: A blockage of blood flow to the heart. Usually heart attacks are caused by a blood clot.
  • Angina: A type of chest pain that occurs because your heart isn’t getting enough blood flow. This is due to narrowing of the blood vessels that feed the heart.
  • Pericarditis: Inflammation and irritation of the thin membrane that surrounds the heart (pericardium).
  • Myocarditis: Inflammation occurring in the middle layer of the heart wall. Typically caused by a viral infection.
  • Cardiomyopathy: An abnormality of the structure of the heart that decreases heart function. When the heart is not able to pump blood to the body properly, this is called heart failure.
  • Aortic Dissection: A tear in the inner layer of the large blood vessel that carries blood from the heart through the chest and abdomen to the legs.   

Gastrointestinal Problems that Cause Chest Pain

Most people don’t think about the stomach and GI tract when they experience chest pain, but it’s a common source of chest discomfort. The following are gastrointestinal causes of chest pain:

  • Acid Reflux: A digestive disease in which the stomach acid or bile irritates the lining of the food pipe. Pain usually occurs after eating or when lying down at night. Acid reflux is commonly referred to as heartburn.
  • Gallstones: The gallbladder is a small pouch by the liver on the upper right abdomen that stores extra digestive juices. Sometimes, the digestive juices will harden into gallstones.  Gallstones may not have symptoms but commonly cause upper abdominal pain, right upper back pain or chest pain after eating.  Gallstones that cause symptoms may need surgical removal.
  • Cholecystitis: An infection of the gallbladder. This is commonly caused by stones that block the tube leading from the gallbladder to the small intestine. An infected gallbladder requires surgical removal.

Lung Problems That Causes Chest Pain

There are a number of lung-related issues that can cause chest pain. They include:

  • Pneumonia: An infection in one, or both, lungs. Sometimes pneumonia causes the lungs to fill with fluid. This may be very serious if contracted by young children and elderly people.
  • Viral Bronchitis: Inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes, which carry air to and from the lungs.
  • Pneumothorax: Also known as a collapsed lung, a pneumothorax is a condition that occurs when air leaks into the space between the lungs and chest wall.
  • Pulmonary Embolism: A condition in which one or more arteries in the lungs become blocked by a blood clot, restricting the amount of blood flow in the lungs.

Muscle and Bone Problems That Cause Chest Pain

Most muscle and bone-related problems that feature chest pain or are injuries or inflammation in the chest wall.

  • Bruised or Broken Ribs: Rib injuries heal on their own but can be very painful and often make breathing difficult.
  • Sore Chest Muscles: After a strenuous exertion of your chest muscles, a tight soreness can be experienced.
  • Costochondritis: Inflammation in the cartilage that attaches the ribs to the breast bone.  This type of pain can often be reproduced by pushing along the ribs.

Treating Chest Pain

As you’ve seen, there’s quite a variety of causes for chest pain. Depending on the cause of the chest pain, the treatment options and severity can vary quite drastically. When it doubt, it’s always recommended to play it safe and seek medical attention if you’re experiencing chest pain. Many of the causes that we have listed here require medical testing and imaging to identify, and can’t be diagnosed by symptoms alone.

There are particular types of chest pain for which you should immediately receive medical attention. They include:

  • A sudden feeling of pressure, squeezing, tightness, or crushing under your breastbone.
  • Chest pain that spreads to your jaw, left arm, or back.
  • Sudden sharp chest pain that is accompanied by shortness of breath, especially after a long period of inactivity.
  • Chest pain accompanied by nausea, dizziness, rapid heart rate or rapid breathing, confusion, ashen color, or excessive sweating.
  • Chest pain accompanied by very low blood pressure or very low heart rate.
  • Any prolonged period of chest pain.

Visit the Urgency Room for Your Chest Pain

Don’t let the long wait times associated with receiving emergency medical care keep you from seeing a physician for your chest pain. At the Urgency Room, you won’t spend hours sitting in a crowded waiting room as your symptoms worsen. In fact, you can find out exactly how long your wait time will be before you arrive by checking online. When you visit any of our three Urgency Room locations, you’ll find a facility outfitted with state-of-the-art equipment. We have a wonderful staff that is friendly and accommodating during your visit, and a top-notch group of experienced emergency room physicians to diagnose and treat the cause of your chest pain.  If you’d like to take a closer look at all we have to offer, check out this virtual tour of a typical Urgency Room.


If you’re in the Minneapolis / Saint Paul area, head to your nearest Urgency Room in Eagan, Vadnais Heights or Woodbury. Regardless of the severity of your chest pain, we can to identify the source and provide you with the treatment necessary to get you back on the path to recovery.  Skip crowded intake rooms and waiting endless hours just to be seen. When minutes matter, come to The Urgency Room for your comprehensive health needs.

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