Don’t worry if you got pain in the chest, it doesn’t mean that is a heart attack. Various problems can occur in your body that can cause pain in the chest.
Chest pain can stem from dozens of conditions besides a heart attack, from pancreatitis to pneumonia or panic attack.
Millions of Americans with chest pain are seen in hospital emergency departments every year. Only 20% of them are diagnosed with a heart attack or an episode of unstable angina, a warning sign that a heart attack may happen soon.
A few have another potentially life-threatening problem, such as pulmonary embolism (a blood clot in the lungs) or aortic dissection (a tear in the inner layer of the aorta).
Some are experiencing “regular” angina, which occurs when part of the heart isn’t getting as much oxygen-rich blood as it needs during periods of physical exertion or emotional stress. Most of them, though, had a condition unrelated to the heart or arteries.
The other tricky problem with heart attacks is that different people experience them in different ways. Some have classic chest pain. Others have jaw pain or back pain. Still, others become breathless, or extremely fatigued, or nauseated.
Chest pain and heart attack symptoms
Chest pain is only one of the possible signs of an impending heart attack. If you notice one or more of the signs below in yourself or someone else, call 911 or your local emergency number right away.
Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, burning, tightness, or pain in the center of the chest
Pain, numbness, pinching, prickling, or other uncomfortable sensations in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach
*Shortness of breath
*Sudden nausea or vomiting
*Lightheadedness or dizziness
*Heat/flushing or a cold sweat
*Sudden heaviness, weakness, or aching in one or both arms
Chest pain symptoms and what they mean
More likely to be a heart attack
- The sensation of pain, or pressure, tightness, squeezing, or burning
- Gradual onset of pain over a few minutes
- Pain in the diffuse area, including a constant pain in the middle of the chest
- Pain that extends to the left arm, neck, jaw, or back (see figure below)
- Pain or pressure accompanied by other signs, such as difficulty breathing, a cold sweat, or sudden nausea
- Pain or pressure that appears during or after physical exertion or emotional stress (heart attack) or while you are at rest (unstable angina)
Less likely to be a heart attack
- Sharp or knifelike pain brought on by breathing or coughing
- Sudden stabbing pain that lasts only a few seconds
- Pain clearly on one side of the body or the other
- Pain that is localized to one small spot
- Pain that lasts for many hours or days without any other symptoms
- Pain reproduced by pressing on the chest or with body motion
When chest pains are serious
Unlike an achy knee or crabby lower back, chest pain isn’t something to shrug off until tomorrow. It also isn’t something to diagnose at home.
Don’t play doctor — go see one, fast, if you are worried about pain or discomfort in your chest, upper back, left arm, or jaw; or suddenly faint or develop cold sweat, nausea, or vomiting.
Call 911 or your local emergency number to summon an emergency medical crew. It will whisk you to the hospital in a vehicle full of equipment that can start the diagnosis and keep you stable if your heart is in trouble.
There are oh-so-many reasons to delay calling for help.
- I’m too young (you aren’t — even 20-somethings can have heart attacks).
- I’m in great shape (a heart attack is sometimes the first sign of heart disease).
- I have a family to take care of (all the more reason to get to the hospital fast).
- I don’t want to bother anyone (you’d be a bigger bother with advanced heart failure or dead).
Conclusion: Not any pain in the chest is a symptom of heart attack, but always when some of this problem named above occur contact your doctor.