What Are the Causes of Pain in the Chest Wall?

Heart disease or heart attacks typically cause pain in the chest wall, but other minor problems and urgent medical conditions can also contribute 3. Chest pain can also vary among individuals and is often described as an aching, dull, sharp or stabbing sensation in the chest, sternum and the ribcage 3. Chest wall pain can be related to the disorders of the heart, muscle and skeletal systems, lungs and digestive system 3. Unexplained chest pain is often difficult to diagnose and may require medical diagnosis and treatment 3.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.


The site Fibromyalgia-Symptoms.org notes that fibromyalgia can cause feelings of pain in the chest wall and ribcage 13. These pains range from dull aching to stabbing and can impede quality of life drastically. Chest wall pain due to fibromyalgia may be termed costochondritis, which is an inflammation of the cartilage that connects the ribs to the sternum bone of the chest 3. This inflammation causes sharp chest pain inside the chest wall that is most commonly felt on the left and upper sides of the chest, although it can also occur in the middle and right side 3. Costochondritis pain can be mistaken for complications of heart disease or a heart attack.

Pulmonary Embolism

An embolism in the leg occurs when a clot from a vein in another part of the body travels to the lungs and causes a blockage in the pulmonary artery. This prevents blood flow to some of the tissues of the lungs, which causes cell death. The blood flow blockage decreases the oxygen that is provided to the body by the lung tissues. The lack of oxygen and lung tissue death causes a sudden sharp pain in the chest wall that may worsen when breathing deeply or coughing 3. A pulmonary embolism can be life-threatening, and urgent medical attention is typically needed.


MayoClinic.com notes that a common cause of chest wall pain is pneumonia 23. When this illness inflames the pleura or membranes that surround the lungs, it is referred to as pneumonia with pleurisy. The condition can cause chest wall pain, tenderness and aching that worsens upon inhalation 3. Pleurisy chest pain is typically temporarily relieved when breathing is ceased or pressure is placed on the chest wall, which helps to differentiate this pain from heart attack symptoms 3.