The heart isn't the only organ in the chest, and other medical problems can cause chest discomfort, including these:
- Acid reflux or heartburn. When acid from the stomach flows up into the esophagus, it can cause a burning sensation in the chest that's often mistaken for angina or a heart attack.
- Lung conditions. Pneumonia or blood clots in the vessels supplying the lungs tend to cause shortness of breath and sharp pains that intensify with a deep breath.
- Pericarditis. Inflammation of the tissues around the heart (pericarditis) can cause a sharp pain that often worsens when you lie down.
- Costochondritis. This condition, caused by inflammation in the chest wall between the ribs and the breastbone, can also trigger pain that's often mistaken for a heart attack. The stabbing, aching pain may be caused by trauma or an overuse injury, or it may accompany arthritis.
- Esophageal spasm. This refers to the narrowing and opening of the esophagus, the muscular tube between the mouth and the stomach. Like angina, this pain is also relieved by nitroglycerin. However, only your doctor can conclusively make this diagnosis.