Depending on a person’s caffeine intake and overall health, they may experience some side effects. However, a weird feeling in the chest or chest pain from caffeine consumption is uncommon.

Caffeine is a nervous system stimulant that makes people feel more alert and energetic. It can also improve mood and increase productivity. As many as 85% of people in the United States consume caffeine daily, with around 40–150 milligrams (mg) of caffeine in every cup.

Caffeine does not typically cause chest pain for most people. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that daily caffeine levels up to 400 mg, or about four to five cups of coffee, are not associated with adverse effects.

In this article, we examine the link between caffeine consumption and chest pain. We discuss the effects of caffeine on the body, how much caffeine is too much, and how excessive caffeine consumption affects people.

A cafetiere and two clear cups of coffee on a counter 1Share on Pinterest
Guaita Studio/Stocksy

Chest pain does not typically occur with moderate caffeine consumption among healthy people. Chest pain is more likely due to another cause.

The evidence below explores the link between caffeine and the mechanisms that could theoretically cause chest pain.

Blood pressure

A 2019 study reports that around 30 minutes after a person consumes caffeine, their blood pressure increases.

Specifically, caffeine induces a rise in systolic blood pressure of 3–8 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) and diastolic blood pressure of 4–6 mmHg — both measures relate to the contraction or relaxation of the heart muscle.

This blood pressure increase peaks after 60–90 minutes and then returns to its starting level after 2–4 hours.

High blood pressure damages the arteries, reducing blood flow and oxygen to the heart, which could result in chest pain — known as angina, heart attack, and heart failure.

Although caffeine can cause a rise in blood pressure, it is temporary and unlikely to trigger chest pain.

Another 2021 study indicates that regular, moderate caffeine consumption does not adversely affect blood pressure in most people. The research is conflicting, with some scientists suggesting that increased caffeine intake is associated with a reduced risk of heart failure later in life or a decreased risk of heart disease and heart attack.

Heart rhythm

Some people may experience heart palpitations after consuming caffeine. The effects of caffeine are usually more pronounced in people who do not have caffeine often. Regular consumers typically develop a tolerance to its effects.

A 2021 study observed people drinking one to three cups of coffee or no coffee on alternating days. Researchers found that study participants experienced 54% more premature ventricular contractions (PVCs) on coffee-drinking days.

PVCs are extra heartbeats that begin in the heart’s lower pumping chambers. They disrupt the usual heart rhythm, causing a fluttering sensation or a skipped beat in the chest.

Some people may experience chest pain or discomfort with PVCs, but most people have no associated symptoms with the palpitations.

The researchers also noted no association between moderate drinking of coffee and an increased risk of supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) arrhythmias, including atrial fibrillation. SVT arrhythmias are any rapid heartbeats originating in the heart’s upper chambers.

Another study investigating moderate coffee consumption found a link between each additional cup of coffee people consumed and a 3% lower risk of any arrhythmia — including atrial fibrillation, PVCs, or other common heart conditions.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

GERD occurs when the stomach’s acidic contents flow back into the tube that connects the mouth and stomach, called the esophagus.

It can cause symptoms such as heartburn, a burning sensation in the middle of the chest, and regurgitation.

Other symptoms of GERD may include:

  • nausea
  • problems swallowing
  • chronic cough or hoarseness
  • chest pain

Of people admitted to the emergency department for acute chest pain but without a heart attack, around 30% have GERD-related symptoms.

The lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is a muscle found at the bottom of the esophagus, where it meets the stomach. The LES usually closes after food enters the stomach. However, GERD develops when the LES weakens or relaxes, enabling the stomach contents to reenter the esophagus.

Caffeine affects the tone of the LES, causing it to relax, which may cause or worsen GERD symptoms. However, while people often claim tea and coffee worsen reflux symptoms, such as heartburn or regurgitation, research from 2014 found no significant link between coffee intake and GERD.

Anxiety and panic attacks

Research from 2020 states that there is a link between heavy coffee consumption and anxiety.

Learn more about whether caffeine can cause anxiety here.

Anxiety and panic attack symptoms vary from person to person, but chest pain or discomfort is an associated symptom of both. People may describe anxiety- and panic-induced chest pain as:

  • constant chest aching
  • chest tension
  • sharp, shooting pain
  • stabbing pressure
  • twitch or spasms in the chest
  • numbness, burning, or a dull ache

Research from 2022 indicates that caffeine equivalent to roughly five cups of coffee induces anxiety in people with and without panic disorder, and those with panic disorder experience more panic attacks.

The FDA considers doses up to 400 mg per day safe for most healthy adults.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, less than 200 mg per day of caffeine does not appear to be a major contributing factor in preterm birth or pregnancy loss. The relationship between caffeine and the growth restriction of the fetus is still unclear.

When people take too much caffeine, they may experience the following:

The FDA says that caffeine can cause toxic effects, such as seizures, with rapid consumption of about 1,200 mg of caffeine. This is equivalent to 0.15 tablespoons of pure caffeine.

People could experience unintentional caffeine toxicity due to the number of over-the-counter preparations containing caffeine, including:

  • energy drinks
  • exercise supplements
  • appetite suppressants

People should talk with a healthcare professional about limiting their caffeine intake if they have the following conditions:

Also, people taking certain medications or supplements should check whether to limit or avoid caffeine. These medications may include:

Additionally, individuals should check limitations on caffeine intake during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.

The FDA does not have a recommended level of caffeine for children. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises that children and adolescents avoid caffeinated drinks due to their effects on sleep and blood pressure.

Caffeine does not typically cause chest pain. Chest pain is more likely to have another cause.

Although evidence is both conflicting and inconclusive, caffeine could potentially cause chest pain through:

  • blood pressure changes
  • heart rhythm changes
  • GERD
  • anxiety and panic attacks

Doses of caffeine up to 400 mg — or around four to five cups of coffee — are safe for most people. Some populations and individuals with certain conditions or taking particular medications are more sensitive to the effects of caffeine than others.

People experiencing severe chest pain should contact 911 or their local emergency services.