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Chest Pain

Do you often hear the elderly mentioned about 'chest pain or 'heartburn' ? Do you understand what they mean?

Chest pain is a general term which is often used to describe any pain, pressure, squeezing, choking, numbness or any other discomfort in the chest, neck, or upper abdomen, and is often associated with pain in the jaw, head, or arms.

How long does chest pain last for? What is its frequency?

It can last from less than a second to days or weeks, can occur frequently or rarely, and can occur sporadically or predictably.

Is chest pain a diagnosis? And what are the causes for it?

Chest pain is merely a symptom, not a diagnosis. Many medical problems can cause chest pain. Some common causes of chest pain are listed as follow:

Heart Related Problems


A characteristic chest pain occurs in individuals who have insufficient coronary blood flow which leads to inadequate oxygen supply to the heart muscle. Angina is usually a warning sign of the presence of significant coronary artery disease and people with angina are at risk of developing a heart attack.

Heart Attack

The pain accompanying a heart attack is caused by a completed blockage of one of the coronary arteries.

Inflammation of the Lining of the Heart

The pain is caused by inflammation of the pericardium, the membrane that covers the heart.

Tearing of the Aorta Wall (Aortic Dissection)

It is a rare but life-threatening condition which causes severe chest & back pain. The aorta is the major blood vessel in the heart responsible for delivering blood to the whole body. Older persons develop aortic dissection typically as a result of chronic high blood pressure, in addition to hardening of the arteries.

Lung Related Problems

Benign Chest Wall Pain

The pain is likely a transient & fleeting irritation of the lung membrane. The irritation causes a painful sensation that can be quite severe but subsides quickly. This condition is common and not related to any medical problem or abnormality.

Trauma with Injury to the Chest

The chest pain is caused by recent chest trauma likes rib fracture, muscle strain or contusion.

Other Lung Problems

The chest pain may be caused by a variety of lung problems including asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, inflammation of the lining of the lung (pleuritis), bursting of the tiny air sacs in the lung tissue (pneumothorax), blood clot in the lung (pulmonary embolism) and so on.


Anxiety or Panic Disorder

The pain accompanying an anxiety or panic attack is caused by muscle contraction in the chest wall which is characterized by repeated episodes of intense anxiety and fear that occur without warning or identifiable cause.

Esophageal Spasm and Reflux

The pain is like a burning discomfort which is caused by washing up of the stomach content and acid into the esophagus.

Peptic Ulcer

The pain caused by peptic ulcer disease usually occurs in the abdomen, but occasionally it can be perceived in the chest.

Nerve Compression

Compression of the nerve roots by bone spurs as they exit the spinal cord can cause pain. It also causes weakness and numbness in the upper arm and chest.


Gallstones can cause severe pain of the upper abdomen, back and chest.

When is chest pain an emergency?

If the cause of chest pain is unclear or suggests a life-threatening condition, you should call immediately for emergency medical service or go promptly to the A&E. Any serious chest pain should receive prompt medical attention especially the chest pain related to angina, heart attack, aortic dissection, pulmonary embolism and pneumothorax.


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