Seeking Medical Attention for Common Chest Pain: What Doctors Want You to Know

Seeking Medical Attention for Common Chest Pain What Doctors Want You to Know

Chest pain strikes fear into the hearts of many. Every year, people in the United States suffer from a heart attack every 43 seconds, and it is a common symptom. It sends 805,000 people scrambling to the emergency rooms.

It affects 20% to 40% of the general population worldwide. But not all chest pain means you’re in immediate danger. It could be several other things, some needing quick attention, others less urgent. 

So, when should you call 911? Sorting out those differences is tough when you’re feeling anxious or in pain. That’s where this guide comes in. We’ll break down certain red flags doctors want you to know. And explain when to get checked out, even if it’s not a classic heart attack.  

This is your tool kit for making smart decisions about your health. It will help you get the right care for what’s ailing you.

When Chest Pain Is an Emergency (Call 911)

it’s quite common, with 25% of people experiencing it in their lifetime. But some types of chest pain mean you need emergency care, not a doctor’s appointment. This means dropping everything and dialing 911. Yes, we’re talking about the classic heart attack symptoms most people have heard of.

Crushing pressure in the center of your chest, like a heavyweight, lasts more than a few minutes. It may radiate to your arms, neck, jaw, or back. It might feel like squeezing or intense tightness. Often, you’ll also feel short of breath, nauseous, sweaty, or lightheaded.

But here’s something vital to know: Not everyone fits this pattern. Women, older adults, and individuals with diabetes may have milder chest pain. Or, they may just feel unwell. Anxiety and panic attacks are also a cause of pain . Don’t brush it off – if you have any risk factors for heart disease, assume the worst until proven otherwise.

While a heart attack is the biggest worry, it’s not the only emergency that can cause chest pain. These also need prompt medical attention:

  • Aortic Dissection: Your aorta is the main artery carrying blood away from your heart. If the inner wall tears, it causes a sudden ripping or tearing pain in your chest that often spreads to your back.
  • Angina: It is chest pain caused by your heart not getting enough blood. It can feel like pressure, tightness, or a heavy squeezing sensation. It’s common. But it’s crucial to take it seriously, as it signals heart problems.
  • Pulmonary embolism: If a blood clot travels to your lungs, it can block blood flow. This usually causes sudden, sharp chest pain, trouble breathing, and even coughing up blood.

When in doubt, err on the side of caution. If the pain is severe and sudden, and something just feels wrong, don’t try to diagnose it. Call 911 immediately and get the expert help you need.

Causes That Still Need Medical Attention (But Not Usually 911)

Okay, so you’re not having the crushing chest pain and other classic heart attack signs. But your chest still hurts, and that’s worrisome. Here’s when you should make a doctor’s appointment ASAP:

Digestive Trouble

We usually think of heartburn and indigestion as belly problems. But they can cause chest pain. This is especially true if you have acid reflux (GERD). However, heart attacks can feel like indigestion, especially in women or those with diabetes. It’s important to get it checked out.

Lung & Breathing Problems

Several things can go wrong in your lungs that cause chest pain. Pneumonia, an infection, usually means fever, cough with yucky mucus, and feeling lousy overall.  

The chest pain often gets worse when you take a deep breath. Think of your lungs as balloons inside a bag (the pleura). If the bag’s lining gets inflamed, a condition called pleurisy, it hurts to breathe deeply. 

Sometimes, a lung can deflate for various reasons; this is known as a collapsed lung. This causes sudden, sharp pain usually on one side of the chest, and you might feel short of breath.

Anxiety & Panic Attacks

Anxiety causes very real physical symptoms, and chest pain is common. With a panic attack, the pain might come on suddenly, alongside a racing heart, sweating, or feeling like you can’t breathe. Even though it’s likely anxiety, it’s always good to see a doctor the first time this happens to rule out anything else.

When your chest hurts, figuring out what to do can feel overwhelming. While it may not require calling 911 (for a good reason), it still needs medical attention. 

To get the best possible diagnosis for your chest pain, reach out to a specialized doctor or doctorate-prepared nurse. These skilled nurses have in-depth training far beyond a typical RN. They specialize in diagnosing complex conditions, administering medication, and checking vitals. 

Doctorate-prepared nurses can also guide you in lifestyle improvement and changes with the moral encouragement you need. DNP nurses hold the multi-state compact license, which makes them follow high standards of care. 

According to Baylor University, the Uniform Licensure Requirements (ULRs) ensure that nurses with the multi-state compact license meet minimum practice standards irrespective of their primary state of residence. This shows that doctorate-prepared nurses are safe and efficient, with low discipline rates. 


What is the medical advice for chest pain?

If you have chest pain, a doctor would tell you to get a health checkup or call 911.  It’s essential to understand why this is and what you should do if you experience.

What is the first treatment for chest pain?

The first course of treatment for chest pain would be to call or go to the doctor immediately. The paramedics may give you aspirin to thin your blood. They may also give you nitroglycerin to relax your arteries.

What causes chest pain if ECG is normal?

If an electrocardiogram (ECG) is normal, chest pain may be caused by other conditions. These include panic attacks, injured ribs, or pancreatitis.

Can chest pain go away naturally?

Yes, chest pain can sometimes go away on its own, but the duration varies greatly depending on the cause. While minor causes might lead to brief pain, serious conditions are more likely to cause recurring or long-lasting pain.

When to Monitor the Pain (for now)

Not all chest pain signals serious trouble. Sometimes, it’s caused by things like muscle strain. For example, from lifting something heavy. Or, it can be costochondritis, where ribs connected to your breastbone get inflamed. 

Even if you think the cause of your pain is minor, it’s wise to stay vigilant. If the pain worsens or you develop new symptoms, don’t hesitate to call your doctor. 

Remember, sometimes, what seems like a small issue can signal something more serious. About 2 out of 3 people with heart attacks have chest pain. But 1 out of every 3 people (often older than 75) have no pain during heart attacks. Don’t ignore pain – get it checked out for peace of mind.

Understanding the different warning signs we’ve discussed helps you make informed decisions about your health.  Remember, you know your body best.

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