When to worry about chest pain
Chest pain can appear in patients in many different forms. It can range from a sharp stab to a dull ache. It can also feel like crushing or burning. In some cases, the pain travels up the neck, into the jaw, and then spreads to the back or down one or both arms.
Many different problems can be the cause of chest pain. The most life-threatening causes involve the heart or lungs. Chest pain can indicate a serious problem; therefore, it is important to seek immediate medical help.
Chest pain can cause you many different sensations depending on what’s triggering the symptom. Often, the cause has nothing to do with the heart — though there’s no easy way to tell without seeing a health care provider.
Heart-related chest pain
Chest pain is often associated with heart disease, many people with heart disease say they have a vague discomfort that isn’t necessarily identified as pain. In general, chest discomfort related to a heart attack or another heart problem may be described by or associated with one or more of the following:
- Pressure, fullness, burning or tightness in your chest
- Crushing or searing pain that spreads to your back, neck, jaw, shoulders, and one or both arms
- Pain that lasts more than a few minutes, gets worse with activity, goes away and comes back, or varies in intensity
- Shortness of breath
- Cold sweats
- Dizziness or weakness
- Nausea or vomiting
Other types of chest pain
It can be difficult to determine heart-related chest pain from other types of chest pain. However, chest pain that is less likely due to a heart problem is more often associated with:
- A sour taste or a sensation of food re-entering your mouth
- Trouble swallowing
- Pain that gets better or worse when you change your body position
- Pain that gets worse when you breathe deeply or cough
- Tenderness when you push on your chest
- Pain that persists for many hours
The usual symptoms of heartburn being a painful, burning sensation behind the breastbone — can be caused by problems with the heart or the stomach.
When to see a doctor
If you find that you have a new or unexplained chest pain or think you’re having a heart attack, call 911 or emergency medical assistance immediately. Do not ignore the symptoms of a heart attack. If you can’t get an ambulance or emergency vehicle to come to you, have a neighbour or a friend drive you to the nearest hospital. Drive yourself only if you have no other option.
This article is intended to inform and give insight but not treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a doctor. Always seek medical advice with any questions regarding a medical condition.