There are a number of possible causes of chest and neck pain. The discomfort you experience in either your chest or neck may be the result of an underlying condition in one of the two areas or it might be pain that radiates from elsewhere.

Pain in your chest and neck may be caused by any of the following conditions:

  • angina
  • heartburn
  • pericarditis
  • chest infections
  • esophagus disorders

Read on to learn more about these conditions.

Angina is caused by a reduction in blood flow to your heart, and symptoms include:

  • nausea and dizziness
  • shortness of breath
  • pain extending to your neck, jaw, shoulder, arms, or back

Stable angina can result from overexertion and generally goes away by resting. Unstable angina is an emergency that involves severely decreased blood flow to the heart, often because of a rupture in a blood vessel or because of a blood clot.

If you experience the symptoms of angina, seek medical attention.

Diagnosis and treatment

Angina is often diagnosed through an electrocardiogram (ECG), chest X-ray, or blood tests. If you are diagnosed with angina, your doctor can determine the more specific diagnosis of stable or unstable angina.

Angina is generally treated through lifestyle changes and medication, though there are surgical options. Unstable angina could be a sign of a heart attack and requires medical treatment immediately.

Heartburn occurs when some of the contents of your stomach are forced back into your esophagus. It may result in a burning sensation in your chest, especially after eating or when lying down. Heartburn can often result in a bitter taste in your mouth.

You have an increased risk of worsening heartburn if you:

Diagnosis and treatment

Though heartburn is a common condition, experiencing heartburn on multiple occasions throughout the week — or if pain worsens — is a cue to visit your healthcare provider. It may or may not indicate a more serious condition, but, following a diagnosis, your doctor can provide appropriate treatment.

If it the diagnosis suggests heartburn, you healthcare provider will suggest proper heartburn treatment such as lifestyle changes and medications.

The saclike membrane that surrounds your heart is called the pericardium. When it swells or is irritated, it can cause chest pain in your left shoulder and neck, especially when you:

Diagnosis and treatment

The symptoms are often difficult to distinguish from other conditions related to the heart and lungs. Your doctor can provide a diagnosis, likely through an ECG, X-ray, or other imaging tests.

Some cases improve without treatment, but there are medications that reduce symptoms. One complication of the condition is called cardiac tamponade. It requires hospitalization to remove the excess buildup of fluid surrounding your heart.

While chest infections are felt primarily in the chest, you may also experience pain in your neck when breathing or swallowing.

Two common chest infections are pneumonia, an inflammation of the air sacs in your lungs, and bronchitis, which occurs when the lining of your bronchial tubes are inflamed.

Diagnosis and treatment

Bronchitis can be diagnosed through:

Acute bronchitis symptoms sometimes improve without treatment.

Bronchitis from a bacterial infection may require medication. Chronic bronchitis is often treated through a pulmonary rehabilitation program including the learning specific breathing techniques.

Pneumonia can be diagnosed through similar tests as bronchitis. Treatment usually focuses on preventing complications. This can involve:

  • antibiotics
  • cough medicine
  • hospitalization (more serious instances)

Two conditions related to your esophagus that could result in chest and neck pain are esophagitis and esophageal spasms.

Esophagitis occurs when the lining of your esophagus is inflamed. This can cause heartburn or pain when swallowing. Esophageal spasms are contractions of your esophagus that cause chest pain. The pain is often described as a squeezing pain or a feeling something is stuck in your throat.

Diagnosis and treatment

Diagnostic techniques for both conditions may involve an endoscopy or X-ray.

For treating esophagitis, your doctor may help you determine which food allergies could trigger inflammation or recommend medications to relieve symptoms, such as:

For treating esophageal spasms, your doctor may recommend treating underlying conditions such as GERD or anxiety. To relax swallowing muscles, they may suggest medications such as Viagra or Cardizem.

If conservative approaches do not work, surgery is an option for both conditions.

Experiencing pain in your chest and neck may require immediate medical attention. In fact, many symptoms of the above conditions are similar to those of a heart attack.

It is best to be cautious and seek medical attention for chest pain, especially if symptoms worsen or persist or you are at risk for a heart attack due to related conditions, age, or family history.

Conditions related to either your chest or neck may be a sign of an underlying condition that causes the pain to spread to surrounding areas. Pain in your chest or difficulty breathing or swallowing should always be taken seriously, seek medical attention for a proper diagnosis and treatment.