Uncertain Causes of Chest Pain

Outline of the body showing internal organs of the chest including the lungs, trachea, heart, and ribs

Chest pain can happen for a number of reasons. Sometimes the cause can't be determined. If your condition does not seem serious, and your pain does not appear to be coming from your heart, your healthcare provider may recommend watching it closely. Sometimes the signs of a serious problem take more time to appear. Many problems not related to your heart can cause chest pain. These include:

  • Musculoskeletal. Costochondritis is an inflammation of the tissues around the ribs that can occur from trauma or overuse injuries, or a strain of the muscles of the chest wall.

  • Respiratory. Pneumonia, collapsed lung (pneumothorax), or inflammation of the lining of the chest and lungs (pleurisy).

  • Gastrointestinal. Esophageal reflux, heartburn, ulcers, or gallbladder disease.

  • Anxiety and panic disorders

  • Nerve compression and inflammation

  • Rare problems such as aortic aneurysm or aortic dissection (a swelling of the large artery coming out of the heart or a tear in the wall of the artery), or pulmonary embolism (a blood clot in the lungs).

Home care

After your visit, follow these recommendations:

  • Rest today and avoid strenuous activity.

  • Take any prescribed medicine as directed.

  • Be aware of any recurrent chest pain and notice any changes

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider if you don't start to feel better within 24 hours, or as advised.

Call 911

Call 911 if any of these occur:

  • A change in the type of pain: if it feels different, becomes more severe, lasts longer, or begins to spread into your shoulder, arm, neck, jaw or back

  • Shortness of breath or increased pain with breathing

  • Weakness, dizziness, or fainting

  • Rapid heartbeat

  • Crushing sensation in your chest

  • Coughing up more than a small amount of blood.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of the following occur:

  • Cough with dark colored sputum (phlegm) or small amount of blood

  • Fever of 100.4ºF (38ºC) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider

  • Swelling, pain or redness in one leg

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