Chest pain may be a sign of a life-threatening medical emergency, or it may be an uncomfortable symptom of a passing problem, like a pulled muscle or indigestion. Chest pain can manifest anywhere from the neck to the upper abdomen, and you may experience it as dull, aching, burning, stabbing, tight, or sharp. People often think chest pain indicates a heart problem, but that’s not always the case. Pain coming from the lungs, esophagus or ribs may all be chest pain. These are a few causes of chest pain — some serious, some not.

1. Angina

Angina is often mistaken for a heart attack because it’s defined by chest pain due to reduced blood flow to the heart. People who experience angina may feel a squeezing or tightness in the chest. It most commonly occurs among people who have heart disease, and it’s considered a warning sign for a possible future heart attack. There are two types of angina. Stable angina is the most common type, and it usually occurs with physical exertion or stress. It may be a recurring problem for some people, and many times, those people are aware of the triggers.

Unstable angina is a medical emergency that manifests as decreased blood flow to the heart that can last up to half an hour, even without a trigger. The main difference between angina and heart attack is that angina is a temporary reduction of blood flow to the heart muscles whereas a heart attack is a permanent obstruction of blood flow to the heart.

chest pain