What causes a sharp pain in the chest?
Chest pain can arise from anything in the chest from the skin to
the muscles and other connective tissue of the chest wall to the
organs such as the lung and its lining, the esophagus, the heart
itself and the sack around the heart.
Sharp pains are usually from a problem with the muscles, tendons,
ligaments etc. or the lining of the lung. If it is mostly when you
move the arm or torso is it probably from the muscles and ligaments
while sharp pains from the lung lining (pleurisy) usually cause
pain with taking deep breaths.
Cardiac chest pain (from the heart) is classically described as
a tightness or pressure. People often object to calling it "pain"
and are more willing to endorse describing it as "discomfort". "An
elephant sitting on my chest" is a common description. It is often
accompanied by nausea, sweating, shortness of breath and a feeling
of impending doom. Unfortunately, the same nerves that go to the
heart also go to the end of the esophagus and so heartburn can
mimic a heart attack perfectly.
Some distinguishing factors betwen heart burn and heart pain is
that heartburn is usually while at rest, especially wiht lying
down, and often after eating large meals. Walking, belching and
drinking liquids often make it better. Cardiac chest pain is
usually worse with activity.
Ocassionally, especially in women, sharp pains can be coming from
the heart. If the pain is persistent (going on for more than a few
days), severe, worse with exertion or accompanied by dizziness,
shortness of breath, palpitations (rapid heart rates) or fever you
should call your doctor.