There is no reliable way for the average person to determine whether chest pain is a sign of a serious problem or not, states Mayo Clinic. See a doctor any time you experience chest pain that does not go away after a few minutes and does not have an obvious cause.
Certain symptoms may point to more mild causes, says Mayo Clinic. Chest wall pain is a common cause of chest pain and can usually be detected by pressing the edge of the sternum with your fingers. If that hurts, the condition is probably harmless. Strained or torn muscles and bruises can also cause mild chest pain.
Many serious conditions, such as heart attacks and angina, are usually accompanied by dizziness, nausea, sweating and fainting, states Mayo Clinic. Pain that starts in the chest but radiates out into the arm, neck or jaw can also be sign of a heart attack. Chest pain accompanied by shortness of breath is another cause for concern. Strenuous exercise can also cause chest pain and labored breathing, but that should go away with a short rest.
Pneumonia can cause chest pain when it is accompanied by a condition called pleurisy, notes Mayo Clinic. In addition to the fever and chills that accompany pneumonia, you may be able to recognize this type of pain by pressing on the area that hurts. That usually causes the pain to temporarily stop.