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What You Need to Know About Chest Pain

Chest pain can come in a variety of forms: sharp, dull, burning, concentrated, or widespread. Chest pain can have many causes — the most serious, of course, being a heart attack. However, the tricky thing about this kind of pain is that it can stem from dozens of different issues, making it hard to tell what’s going on without seeing a healthcare professional.

According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease accounts for about 1 in 3 deaths in the United States. That’s about 2,300 Americans daily, which is an average of 1 death every 38 seconds. It’s more important than ever to stay educated on heart health and warning signs; so, in honor of February being American Heart Month, we’re going over the different types of chest pain and when you should seek assistance from a medical professional.

While chest pain is typically related to the heart, it can often stem from problems in your lungs, esophagus, ribs, and other parts of the body. Here some causes and symptoms of chest pain, broken down by location:

Heart-Related Chest Pain

Every year, millions of Americans experiencing chest pain are seen by medical professionals, but only 20 percent of them are diagnosed with a heart attack. There are several heart-related causes of chest pain that are not caused by a heart attack, including Coronary Artery Disease (CAD), myocarditis, pericarditis, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, mitral valve prolapse, and more. Either way, if you’re experiencing these symptoms of heart-related chest pain, you’ll want to see a doctor as soon as possible:

  • Pressure, fullness, or tightness in the chest
  • Pain that radiates to the back, neck, shoulders, jaw, and one or both arms
  • Irregular pain: chest pain that gets worse with activity, goes away and comes back, or varies with intensity
  • Chest pain that lasts longer than a few minutes
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness, weakness, nausea, and/or vomiting

Warning signs of a heart attack include squeezing and/or pressure in the center of the chest, shortness of breath, sudden nausea, heat flashes or cold sweats, unusual fatigue, or pain or any other atypical feelings in your arms, jaw, and back. If you suspect that you may be having a heart attack, go to your nearest emergency room.

Other Causes of Chest Pain

Chest pain may also be caused by different structures in the chest other than the heart or vessels, including:

  • Starting at the skin, certain rashes such as shingles can cause pain
  • Inflammation of the chest wall, the muscles, bones, and joints, from such things as cough may cause pain
  • Lung and bronchial infections such as pneumonia can cause chest pain
  • Reflux in the esophagus and even gas in the upper intestines can be felt as significant chest pain

First Care urgent care clinics are prepared to evaluate and manage a variety of conditions such as these.

When should you see a healthcare professional?

It’s always a good idea quickly to see a medical professional if you have chest pain lasting longer than a few minutes — there are so many different causes of chest pain that are hard to identify, so you don’t want to take the risk in case the cause of your pain is life-threatening. In the case that your pain is emergent, or you suspect you are having a heart attack, it’s best to seek emergency medical help immediately.  

For further information, check out the American Heart Association website, or reach out to us at First Care to learn more about how we can help.