What is chest pain?
Chest pain is any sort of pain felt in your upper body, from your jaw down to the bottom of your ribs. Because it can be a sign of a heart attack, it's safest to consider chest pain as heart-related, until proven otherwise.
Could I be having a heart attack?
The warning signs of heart attack can be varied and may not always be sudden or severe.
People having a heart attack may have just one of these symptoms, or a combination of them. They can come on suddenly or develop over minutes and get progressively worse. Symptoms usually last for at least 10 minutes.
Warning signs could include:
- discomfort or pain in the centre of your chest – a heaviness, tightness or pressure, like an elephant sitting on your chest, or a belt tightening around your chest, or a bad case of indigestion
- discomfort in the arms, shoulder, neck, jaw or back
- other problems such as:
- a choking feeling in your throat
- your arms feeling heavy or useless
- feeling short of breath
- feeling nauseated
- having a cold sweat
- feeling dizzy or light-headed.
Chest pain symptoms can range from a mild sensation, to a severe pain. All chest pain is considered to be heart-related until proven otherwise.
Heart attacks are more common in older people than younger people, but they can occur in people of any age.
What should I do?
If you have any of the symptoms above, call triple zero (000) immediately and ask for an ambulance. If calling triple zero (000) does not work on your mobile phone, try calling 112.
You should call triple zero (000) and ask for an ambulance immediately if:
- your chest pain is severe, or worsening, or lasts longer than 10 minutes
- your chest pain feels heavy, crushing or tight
- you have other symptoms, such as breathlessness, nausea, dizziness or a cold sweat
- you also feel the pain in your jaw or down your left arm.
If you feel chest pain but don’t have any of the symptoms above, it's still a good idea to see a doctor as soon as possible, so your heart health can be checked.
It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Not sure what to do next?
If you are still concerned about your chest pain, why not use healthdirect’s online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.
The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).
Last reviewed: July 2017