Table of Contents


Chest pain can cause a great deal of anxiety, owing to the difficulties in distinguishing between cardiac chest pain and those caused by other body disorders. Recognizing different types of chest pain and their potential causes is critical for providing early and suitable solutions. In this article, we will delve into the essential distinctions, emergency symptoms, first aid techniques, and specific considerations concerning exercise-induced chest pain.

Chest Pain: A Subtle Symptom

Chest pain can present in a variety of ways, from a piercing sharpness to a persistent, dull discomfort, indicating a wide range of potential health conditions. It could be an indication of cardiac problems, lung ailments, musculoskeletal issues, digestive system illnesses, or even stress-related psychological factors. 

The various nature of chest pain causes demands a thorough examination to determine the actual cause. Accurate diagnosis is critical because it leads to the development of effective treatment techniques and management plans.

Understanding Types of Chest Pain

Chest pain is widely classified as cardiac or non-cardiac.

Cardiac Chest Pain

Pain that is frequently associated with insufficient blood flow to the heart muscle, indicating illnesses such as angina or a heart attack. It is commonly described as chest pressure, tightness, or squeezing sensation that might spread to the arm, shoulder, neck, or jaw.

Non-cardiac Chest Pain

Pain on the chest that can be caused by a range of other factors, including gastrointestinal troubles (such as GERD), musculoskeletal problems, lung illnesses, and even anxiety and panic disorders.

When Is Chest Pain Considered an Emergency?

Chest pain should be seen as an emergency and require immediate medical attention if:

  • The pain is severe and sudden?
  • It is accompanied by symptoms including shortness of breath, dizziness, chilly sweat, or nausea.
  • If it radiates to the arm, back, neck, jaw, and stomach.
  • When it occurs in conjunction with heart attack symptoms, such as acute weakness, anxiety, or a sense of impending doom.

Recognizing these symptoms is critical since early medical action can save lives in cases of cardiac-related chest pain.

Common First Aid Steps for Someone With Chest Pain

If you or someone else is experiencing chest pain, follow these first-aid steps:


1. Keep Calm: Panic might intensify the condition. Assist the person in sitting down in a comfortable position.

2. Call Emergency Services: If the pain is severe, inexplicable, or resembles cardiac pain, seek emergency medical attention immediately.
3. Loosen Tight Clothing: Make sure nothing is restricting the chest to improve breathing.
4. Monitor: Keep an eye on the individual’s condition. If they have a history of heart disease and have been prescribed medicine such as nitroglycerin, help them to take it.

If you have chest pain when exercising, you should take the following steps:

  • Stop Exercising: To avoid worsening the problem, stop all physical activity immediately.
  • Rest: Sit or lie down to observe whether the discomfort goes away with rest, which could indicate a non-cardiac reason, such as muscle strain.
  • Assess the Pain: If the pain goes away soon, it is unlikely to be caused by a cardiac condition. However, remain watchful and consider talking with a healthcare practitioner to discuss the situation.
  • Seek Urgent Medical Attention: If the pain is continuous, severe, or accompanied by other concerning symptoms such as difficulty breathing, it is critical to seek medical attention immediately. This is particularly important for patients with underlying heart diseases or substantial risk factors, as it may be a warning of a serious cardiac event.

Are There Any Specific Signs That Chest Pain Is Caused by a Heart Attack?

Certain symptoms clearly indicate that chest pain is due to a heart attack. This includes:

  • Pain that feels like heavy pressure, squeezing, or stiffness in your chest.
  • Persistent pain lasting more than a few minutes, or that disappears and returns.
  • Pain spreads to the shoulders, neck, arms, or jaw.
  • Symptoms that include shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, and lightheadedness.

Everyone should be able to distinguish between different types of chest pain and recognize the warning symptoms of a heart attack. In cases of doubt, err on the side of caution and seek medical assistance right away. Remember, when it comes to chest pain, it’s best to be safe and seek medical attention to ensure proper care is administered at the appropriate time.


Distinguishing between cardiac and non-cardiac chest discomfort is critical for optimal treatment and response. While several crucial criteria can help distinguish the two, any unexplained or severe chest discomfort should be treated as a medical emergency. Being aware of the various types of chest discomfort, detecting emergency indications, and learning the proper first aid steps can all have a big impact on health outcomes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can indigestion result in chest pain?
A: Yes, indigestion or GERD can induce scorching chest discomfort, which is frequently misinterpreted as heart pain.

Q: Can anxiety induce chest pain?
A: Anxiety and panic attacks can induce chest pain, which is usually accompanied by a rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, and feelings of fear or dread.

Q: If the chest pain is not caused by a heart condition, how long should it last with rest?
A: Non-cardiac chest discomfort caused by muscle strain or other comparable reasons usually improves with rest in a short amount of time. However, chronic or severe discomfort should be addressed by a medical expert.

Q: Can chest pain indicate something other than heart problems?
A: Yes, chest pain can be caused by a variety of non-cardiac factors, including musculoskeletal disorders, lung ailments, and gastrointestinal problems.

For professional guidance on chest pain or any heart-related issues, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at +65 6235 5300. Our experts are here to address your questions and concerns.

Written by: Dr Michael MacDonald MB ChB, BSc (Hons), MRCP (UK), MD (Research), FESC (Europe).  Dr MacDonald was trained in the UK and is a senior Consultant Cardiologist.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.