It can be sharp or dull, or even manifest as a pressure-like sensation, squeezing, choking, numbness, or some other type of discomfort. Depending on the underlying cause, the symptoms can last from less than a second to days or weeks, can occur frequently or rarely, and might occur either unpredictably or under specific, known circumstances. Because chest pain can accompany medical conditions ranging in seriousness—heartburn, anxiety, angina, and heart attack, for example—it is important for a doctor to evaluate you as quickly as possible.
Besides pain quality and timing, the precise location of chest pain is also variable among patients. For instance, what someone reports as chest pain may actually be upper abdominal pain from an ulcer or gastroesophageal reflux disease, or even referred pain from a slipped disk in the neck.
Chest pain can be caused by medical conditions affecting any of the organs located in the chest or upper abdomen, including the heart, blood vessels, lungs, airways, muscles, bones, esophagus, or stomach.
A medical evaluation is the only way to know for sure what’s behind this alarming pain and to make sure you’re getting the right treatment.