Non Cardiac Chest Pain

Patient Advice Leaflet from the Emergency Department

Frimley Park Hospital Portsmouth Road, Frimley GU16 7UJ

Call 999 / Seek urgent medical advice if you have pain that:
• spreads to your arms, back, neck or jaw
• makes your chest feel tight or heavy
• also started with shortness of breath, sweating and feeling or being sick
• suffer any fainting or collapsing episodes

Chest pain is a common cause for attendance in the Emergency Department and can be very worrying for the patient. There are a wide variety of causes for chest pain. It is important to take chest pain seriously because it can sometimes indicate a significant underlying problem. This leaflet provides further advice on other possible causes of non-cardiac chest pain and when to seek urgent medical attention.


We check for serious causes of chest pain, such as a heart attack, blood clot in the lung, collapsed lung and torn large blood vessels. Tests help us to confirm that the reason for your chest pain today was unlikely to be heart-related or serious. We may do blood tests, ECG (tracing of heart), chest X-ray or other appropriate tests.

Causes of non-cardiac chest pain

Here is a brief overview of some of the more common, non-cardiac causes of chest pain, which you may have been diagnosed with. It is possible that the cause of your chest pain is not listed here, but as you have been discharged home with this leaflet, it is unlikely to be serious at present.

Lung causes

  • Pneumonia is inflammation of the lungs, usually caused by an infection. Other symptoms include fevers, muscle aches and cough with sputum.
  • Pneumothorax is air around or outside the lung.

Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD)

Heartburn is the main symptom of GORD, usually described as a burning sensation in the lower chest and upper abdomen.


Inflammation in one or more of the joints, where the cartilage attaches the ribs to the breastbone.


Inflammation of the sac around the heart, usually caused by a viral infection which resolves within a few weeks.

Strained chest muscle

If your chest is painful and tender to touch, it may be caused by an injury or a strained muscle in the chest wall. It is usually worse on movement and on breathing in and may take weeks to settle.


Chest pain can occur with an anxiety or panic attack.


The treatment for chest pain will depend on the likely cause. Your doctor will be able to recommend the best treatment for your condition. You may be advised to take simple pain killers regularly, such as paracetamol. Most adults can take up to 8 paracetamol tablets in a single 24 hour period (maximum 4 grams). Please always check the instructions on the box of the medication you are taking.

If you have further episodes of chest pain and are worried, please seek urgent medical attention.

References / Further Information:
Acknowledgements: Dr Joanna Gao, Dr Rasa Zivkovic, Dr Nicholas Lankester

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