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What causes chest pain?

Chest pain can be a symptom of many different conditions, some of which are more serious than others.
It's best to seek medical attention for any chest pain, to check if it's heart-related.

Common causes of chest pain

Common causes of chest pain include:

  • indigestion or reflux (heartburn) – when stomach acid comes up the food pipe, and causes a burning pain in the chest
  • muscle strains and inflammation in the spaces between the ribs (known as costochondritis)
  • shingles (herpes zoster) – an infection that typically causes pain, before a skin rash appears
  • chest infections such as pleurisy (inflammation of the tissue lining the lungs), bronchitis and pneumonia
  • angina – pain caused by poor blood flow to the heart, which usually occurs when the heart has to work harder than usual, for example with exercise, anxiety or high emotion, cold weather, or after eating a large meal. The pain is usually short-lived and eases with rest.
  • heart attack – when a blood clot blocks blood flow to the heart muscle. Chest pain caused by a heart attack usually does not go away with rest, and urgent medical attention is necessary.

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 2015

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