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Chest Pain

What is Chest Pain?

Chest pain is pain felt in the chest region which can come from a variety of different structures within the chest such as heart, lungs, airways, oesophagus, ribs, breathing (respiratory) muscles and nerves. It is important to determine the correct part of the body that the pain is coming from.

What does chest pain feel like?

Chest pain may feel different depending on the associated area that it is coming from. It can be rapid or sudden onset, sharp, dull, stabbing, constant, pressure, tightness, squeezing, heaviness, burning, a tearing or ripping sensation, or generalised non-specific pain. Symptoms may also include breathlessness, cough, fever, high breathing rate, high heart rate, low blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, dizziness or reflux.

What causes chest pain?

Chest pain can be caused by a variety of problems in which below will explain further into the structure of the chest and where the pain may be coming from:


  • Infection, trauma or cancer of the lining around the lung (pleurisy)
  • Blood clot, caused by long-distance travel or immobilisation
  • Collapsed or punctured lung, caused by lung disease or trauma
  • Tumour


  • Heart attack or angina, caused by heart disease
  • Infection, inflammation, trauma or tumour of the sac around the heart (pericarditis)

Big blood vessels

  • Aortic aneurysm, caused by trauma, atherosclerosis or genetic disorder of the connective tissue (Marfan syndrome)


  • Reflux, trauma, tumour or vomiting


  • Ribs—fracture, joint or spine problem
  • Muscles—trauma or unaccustomed exercise
  • Nerve pain (neuralgia)—shingles, thoracic spine problem or tumour
  • Arthritis or other inflammatory conditions

How do I know if I have chest pain?

Chest pain is a pain or discomfort felt in the chest region that is not normal for you. You must try and distinguish the difference between chest pain arising from a heart attack compared to other problems.

How do I know if I am suffering a heart attack?

The Heart Foundation of Australia recommends that if you experience the warning signs such pain, pressure, heaviness or tightness in the chest, neck, jaw, arms, shoulders, abdomen, or back as chest pains of a heart attack for 10 minutes and, if the symptoms are severe or get worse, you must call 0-0-0 immediately for an ambulance. If you experience these signs, you should:

  1. Stop and rest
  2. Tell someone about our symptoms and, if you take angina medicine, you should take a dose
  3. If your symptoms are severe, getting worse or have lasted more than 10 minutes you should call 0-0-0.

For any more information please refer to the Heart Foundation Website. 

How can physiotherapy help with chest pain?

Physiotherapy can help treat and management of any musculoskeletal causes of chest pain, as well as assistance with diseases that are associated with chest pain. Physiotherapy is important with musculoskeletal chest pain and chest pain secondary to chronic lung disease or heart disease as they are able to give advice with treatment plans, exercise and rehabilitation.

Is physiotherapy effective for chest pain?

If the chest pain you are having is is due to a problem with the musculoskeletal system, your physiotherapist will be able to assess and treat the structures causing the pain. Treatment may include exercise, rest, manual therapy and education regarding posture and care.

If you would like to find out more please call us or book an appointment here.

Back to Physiotherapy for Your Chest 

Reference: Australian Physiotherapy Association 2019, Your Body, viewed 19 November 2019, < https://australian.physio/>.