What does my chest pain mean?
If you’re experiencing chest pain, experts say you shouldn’t ignore it because you could be having a heart attack.
But a heart attack isn’t always what’s happening – other conditions can trigger chest pain. Here are five reasons you might be having chest pain unrelated to heart attacks.
- Pain related to your gastrointestinal (GI) system, stomach or esophagus, such as acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux (GERD)
“People often experience pain from acid backing up from their stomach into their esophagus,” says Dr. Mehran Jabbarzadeh, a cardiac electrophysiologist at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, Ill. “This type of pain can mimic a heart attack. That’s why they call it heartburn, even though it has nothing to do with the heart.”
- Strained chest muscles due to physical activity
- Inflammation where rib bone meets cartilage, also known as costochondritis
Dr Jabbarzadeh says people with costochondritis typically feel pain in the chest wall. “It can be caused by inflammation of the joints around the breast bone and ribs or between the breast bone and ribs,” he says, adding that the condition can be diagnosed by a physician.
- Lung disease or lung issues, such as clots in the lungs, pneumonia or swelling of the lining around the lungs
- Irregular heart beat
Dr. Jabbarzadeh suggests seeking help if you’re unsure what’s causing chest pain.
“If you are experiencing chest pain and you’re not sure what’s causing it, call your doctor or call 911,” he says. “When it comes to chest pain, you can’t be too cautious.”
About the Author
Kathleen Troher, health enews contributor, is manager of public affairs and marketing at Advocate Good Sheperd Hospital in Barrington. She has more than 20 years of journalism experience, with her primary focus in the newspaper and magazine industry. Kathleen graduated from Columbia College in Chicago, earning her degree in journalism with an emphasis on science writing and broadcasting. She loves to travel with her husband, Ross. They share their home with a sweet Samoyed named Maggie.