Is Chest Pain always a Sign of Heart Problem?

Chest pain does not always mean that you have a heart Problem.  Chest pain is synonymously linked with heart attack and it is something you cannot ignore. It is an indication that you are a waitlisted candidate but for a future attack. In fact, around 25 percent of those who experience chest pain diagnosed with a condition that is not related to heart. Chest pain can be a sign of problems in the lungs, esophagus (food pipe), ribs, muscles and nerves.

So, when your chest pain is not sign of a heart problem?

Chest pain that is not related to heart is called Non-Cardiac Chest Pain (NCCP). NCCP is generally categorized into esophageal and non-esophageal causes.

Esophageal causes of Chest Pain

Damage to the food pipe

When the chest pain is not associated with cardiac health, it is more likely to be a symptom of GERD. Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease refers to a condition where the food pipe is inflamed or constricted. Food pipe is called esophagus. It carries the food and water and anything you eat from your throat to the stomach. Constricted food pipe cannot carry all the food to your stomach.

Since the food pipe is directly placed behind the heart, it causes sudden chest pain and discomfort.

Acid Reflux

Chest pain as a cause of chest pain

Sometimes your stomach produces too much acid (either you overeat or you don’t eat at all) which alters the digestion. Acid reflux refers to reflux of food you eat back into the mouth, which causes burning sensation of throat, heart and stomach with pain.


In many instances, gastritis is often exhibited through chest pain. Gastritis refers to inflammation of the linings of the stomach. When your body accumulates too much gas it affects the blood and oxygen flow in the body. You feel a fuller stomach with a few bites. Sometimes when you eat, you also experience your ears getting clogged and your chest is too heavy. A chest pain caused due to gastritis often mimics like a heart attack.

Non-esophageal Causes of Chest Pain

Other than the digestive ailments, chest pain is associated with disorder of the lungs and muscles.

Pulmonary Embolism – Blood Clot in the Lungs

When there is a blood clot in the lung, it affects the quality and quantity of blood and oxygen transmitted to the heart.  Due to absence or poor blood supply, the tissues of the lungs will die eventually. This condition leads to severe chest pain that is almost similar to a cardiac arrest. And this is a life threatening condition that needs immediate medical attention.

Musculo-Skeletal Pain

Sometimes, simply a muscle pain may lead to chest pain. When your bone health is compromised and you suffer from pain the ribs, it affects the cartilages of the breastbone. Or simply, when you strain too much that is more likely to affect the ribs, lead to chest pain. Though it is not a severe condition, you should get a diagnosis from a doctor to identify the exact cause.

Panic Attack

Panic attack can cause chest pain

Sometimes, fear over something that is yet to happen or too much stress and anxiety may manifest through chest pain. It is neither connected with digestive ailments nor with dysfunction of other organs. It is triggered by emotional stress.

Angina – More of a Chest Discomfort than Chest Pain

Beyond these, angina is a major condition that causes chest pain.

Angina refers to discomfort in chest with mild to severe chest pain. The pain often radiates to neck, shoulders and arms. It is caused when the heart muscle receives insufficient quantity of oxygen rich blood.

When you experience mild chest pain or severe, don’t hesitate to get the condition diagnosed and get appropriate treatment to rule out the causes.