Chest pain

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

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:

Call 111

If you can’t speak to your GP or don’t know what to do next.

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