Whenever anyone mentions chest pain, the first thought that comes to mind is heart attack. While there are many different causes of such pain, this is by far the most serious, often proving to be life threatening. Therefore, it is always wise to seek medical care as quickly as possible after the onset of sudden sharp stabbing chest pain.

The problem may not be a heart attack. However, there are other heart related causes for this pain. Unstable angina pectoris is a condition that can occur if the heart is being deprived of adequate blood flow and oxygenation. While not a true heart attack, this condition can be a precursor that warns of the possibility of one in the near future due to blockage of cardiac arteries.

The pain of angina can be relieved by taking sublingual nitroglycerin, a drug that opens up the blood vessels and allows increased flow to the heart. However, the standard instruction is to take nitro up to three times. If the pain is not relieved after three doses, seek emergency medical care immediately.

Sore muscles in the chest wall can cause sudden sharp stabbing chest pain. This tends to worsen when one takes a deep breath. While not life threatening, muscle pain in the chest can be quite uncomfortable and frightening.

Digestive issues such esophageal spasms can cause one to feel severe pain in the chest. This is also not life threatening, but without medical testing, is difficult to diagnose by one’s self. It is, therefore, a good idea to seek medical care and advice.

Another common cause of chest pain is a condition known as a hiatal hernia. A small tear in the diaphragm allows a portion of the stomach to be captured inside the chest cavity, causing pain. This condition can be extremely painful, but does not pose an imminent threat to one’s life.

Pneumonia is a condition that builds up fluid inside the lungs. This can make the chest hurt when one attempts to take a deep breath. The pain can be sharp and stabbing. This pain is often accompanied by a fever or other symptoms. Fluid outside the lungs but inside the pleural sac that surrounds them can also lead to a sharp pain known as pleurisy.

Stress and anxiety can cause muscles to spasm inside the chest wall and cause serious pain. This is often accompanied by a feeling of being short of breath and can mimic many of the symptoms of a heart attack. Only a doctor can accurately diagnose the difference between a heart attack and an anxiety attack.

A tear in the aorta can also cause sudden sharp stabbing chest pain. This condition is an extreme emergency, as the tear can open all the way to the inside of this primary artery and can allow a person to bleed to death internally in a matter of minutes. This is another valid reason to seek prompt medical care at the onset of any type of severe pain in the chest.