Chest pain is the top sign of a heart attack and chronic heart disease. Chest pain is also a common symptom of many conditions that aren’t related to your heart.
No matter the cause, there’s one easy guideline to follow: You should never ignore chest pain.
You should always seek professional medical care for chest pain to be sure it isn’t a heart attack, get an accurate diagnosis, and start treatment if needed.
The bigger challenge is deciding when your chest pain signals a heart attack that needs immediate emergency treatment.
As specialists in pain management and physical medicine and rehabilitation, our team at Florida Pain Medicine have extensive experience evaluating chest pain and providing advanced care that eases your pain.
In this blog, we’re exploring chest pain, including the signs of a heart attack and other reasons you may experience pain in your chest.
Four signs of a heart attack
If you have any of the following, call 911 for immediate medical attention:
1. Sudden severe or crushing chest pain
Severe pain in the center of your chest is the classic sign of a heart attack. However, many people don’t have pain. Instead, they feel an intense crushing sensation like a heavy weight pressing down on their chest.
2. Gradual chest pain
Heart attacks don’t always cause severe or crushing pain. You’re just as likely to have chest pain that builds up slowly.
3. Chest pain that persists and/or gets worse
Any type of chest pain that doesn’t improve or gets worse is a red flag for a heart attack. By comparison, a sharp, severe pain that improves or chest pain that feels better (or worse) when you lie down or change your body position usually arises from a bone, nerve, or muscle problem.
4. Chest pain together with other symptoms
Chest pain occurring with any of these symptoms signals a possible heart attack:
- Shortness of breath
- Cold sweats
- Loss of consciousness
- Radiating pain
The pain from a heart attack may radiate to your jaw, neck, arms, upper back, shoulders, or upper abdomen.
Heart disease and chest pain
Chest pain is one of the most common symptoms of chronic heart conditions, including:
- Coronary artery disease
- Congestive heart failure
- Heart valve disease
- Aortic dissection (torn aorta)
- Myocarditis (inflamed heart muscles)
- Pericarditis (inflammation around your heart)
- Arrhythmias (irregular, slow, or fast heartbeat)
These conditions get progressively worse and can lead to a heart attack or stroke if you don’t seek help from a cardiologist.
Non-cardiac causes of chest pain
Chest pain can begin in any of the tissues in your chest (the thoracic cavity), including your ribs, muscles, spine, lungs, and esophagus. Additionally, conditions in your stomach, gallbladder, and pancreas often cause referred pain, meaning you feel the pain in your chest.
When chest pain isn’t caused by your heart, you may have one of many possible conditions, including:
- Acid reflux
- Stomach ulcer
- Pulled muscles (in the chest or rib cage)
- Broken ribs
- Lung cancer
- Thymus gland cancer
- Chest wall cancer
- Pulmonary embolism (blood clot in your lungs)
- Gastritis (inflammation in the stomach lining)
- Bronchitis (inflammation in the lung’s airways)
- Pleuritis (inflammation in the tissues between your lungs and chest wall)
- Costochondritis (inflammation in the cartilage connecting the ribs to your breastbone)
- Shingles (painful rash that also causes chest pain)
Diagnosing and treating the underlying health problem is the first step for relieving chest pain. Your treatment could vary from physical therapy and medication management to minimally invasive procedures and surgery, depending on your diagnosis.
Getting relief from your chest pain
Our expertise in advanced pain management can help if you have:
- Uncontrolled pain during your treatment
- Severe but temporary pain from a disease flare up
- Pain related to cancer (cancer pain management)
- Chronic chest pain (often related to esophageal or heart disease)
For example, we may recommend an intercostal nerve block or spinal cord stimulation, interventional treatments that stop pain messages traveling from your chest to your brain.
To learn more about managing chest pain, call Florida Pain Medicine, or book an appointment online today.