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Q: Can you explain different kinds of chest pains? How do I know when to see a doctor? – K. T.

A: There are several types of chest pain because chest pain may also be caused by problems in your lungs, esophagus muscles, ribs or nerves.

  • Sharp
  • Dull
  • Burning
  • Aching
  • Stabbing
  • A tight, squeezing, or crushing sensation

Coronary Artery Disease – Blockage in the heart blood vessels that causes reduced blood flow and oxygen to the heart muscle. The chest pain may spread to your arm, shoulder, jaw or back. It may feel like a pressure or squeezing sensation.

Heart Attack – Severe, crushing pain usually in the center or left side of the chest and is not relieved by rest.

Pericarditis – Inflammation or infections of the sac around the heart. Sharp, steady pain along the upper neck and shoulder muscle.

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy – A genetic disease that causes the heart muscle to grow thick. Chest pain and shortness of breath usually occur with exercise.

Coronary Artery Dissection – Rare but deadly condition, which results when a tear develops in the coronary artery. Severe pain with a tearing or ripping sensation that goes up into the neck, back, or abdomen.

When in doubt, call your doctor about any chest pain you have, especially if it comes on suddenly or is not relieved by anti-inflammatory medications. Call 911 if you have any of these symptoms along with chest pain:

  •          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 with shortness of breath, especially after a long period of inactivity
  •          Nausea, dizziness, rapid heart rate or rapid breathing, confusion, ashen color, or excessive sweating
  •          Very low blood pressure or very low heart rate

Call your doctor if you have any of these symptoms:

  •          Fever, chills, or coughing up yellow-green mucus
  •          Problems swallowing
  •          Severe chest pain that does not go away


Q&A: What Do Different Types Of Chest Pain Mean? was originally published on

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