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It's Not Always a Heart Attack: 4 Chest Pain Causes to Know

It's Not Always a Heart Attack: 4 Chest Pain Causes to Know

When sudden chest pain strikes, a heart attack is often the first thing that comes to mind. But, not so fast! A heart attack isn’t the only thing that causes chest pain. Some chest pain, while alarming, can have another explanation. 

Cardiovascular physician Majed Chane, MD, and the team at CA Heart and Vein Specialists in Huntington Beach, California, strive to provide high-quality cardiac care. Dr. Chane has extensive experience diagnosing and treating a full range of conditions that affect the heart and circulatory system. 

We see many patients for chest pain and take the utmost care in evaluating the cause and finding effective solutions. While you should never assume your chest pain is no big deal, it’s wise to know the causes of chest pain other than a heart attack and the best steps to take. 

Signs that it may not be a heart attack

The following four types of chest pain are not related to a heart attack. 

Lung problems

Pinpoint chest pain is a type of chest discomfort felt with each deep breath or cough. Moving around and changing positions tends to aggravate the situation.

If this describes your symptoms — especially if the pain is on the right side of your chest, away from your heart — you may have a lung problem. An asthma flare is another possible cause of chest pain.


If you have a sharp pain in your chest that improves as you move around, you may have heartburn, also known as acid reflux. Heartburn affects millions of Americans every day, causing a burning sensation in the chest and a sour taste in the throat. 

Heartburn is more likely to occur after you eat, especially if you have a large meal or eat something spicy. You’re also more likely to experience acid reflux if you lie down shortly after eating. 


Angina causes a pressing, squeezing sensation under the chest bone. While angina is not a heart attack, it’s a symptom of coronary artery disease (CAD) and reduced blood flow to the heart. If you have angina, it’s important to have an evaluation. 

Dr. Chane can determine how well your heart functions and check the extent of narrowing or blockages. Treatment can relieve your symptoms and prevent things from getting worse. 

Chest muscle strain

A quick, unexpected sensation in your chest that lasts only a brief moment is unlikely to signal a heart attack. This type of chest pain is more likely related to something like a muscle strain in your chest wall.

Signs of serious chest pain

Some types of chest pain can signal something serious, especially if they last for more than five minutes.

New or unexplained chest pain with shortness of breath, a cold sweat, nausea, fatigue, or lightheadedness are major causes for concern. In addition to your chest, the pain, pressure, or discomfort may radiate to your neck, jaw, or arms.

Crushing, persistent, and unrelenting pain signals something serious. Get to the emergency department immediately.

Diagnosing chest pain

If you have chest pain that seems similar to heart-related chest pain, seek medical attention. Your care team will perform a thorough physical exam that includes taking measurements of all of your vital signs, such as blood pressure and heart rate. 

Screening for heart disease or a heart attack involves an electrocardiogram (EKG), which is a noninvasive test that records the electrical activity of your heart. Blood tests are also used to further investigate. When you have a heart attack, your heart produces proteins that can be detected in a blood test.

Take any chest pain seriously

You may be unable to distinguish between a heart attack and other types of chest pain. As a result, you should always treat chest pain seriously. Go to the emergency room if it is sudden or new and lasts more than five minutes. 

It may not be an emergency if it goes away after a few minutes, but you should still see a medical professional as soon as possible to determine what’s behind it. Chest pain, whatever the cause, can reoccur and have a negative impact on your quality of life.

It’s crucial to know the signs of serious heart pain, but even mild heart symptoms may signal a problem with your heart or circulatory system. If you have chest pain or are concerned about your heart health, schedule an evaluation with Dr. Chane. Call 657-206-8630 or use our online appointment request form available on this website.

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