Chest pain comes in many varieties, ranging from a sharp stab to a dull ache. Some types of chest pain can be described as crushing or burning. In certain cases, the pain travels up the neck, pierces through to the back or radiates down one or both arms.
Many different types of problems can cause chest pain. The most life-threatening ones involve the heart or lungs. Because it can be difficult to determine what exactly is causing chest pain, it's best to seek immediate medical help.
A wide range of health problems can cause chest pain. In many cases, the underlying cause has nothing to do with your heart — though there's no easy way to tell without seeing a doctor.
Heart-related chest pain
Other types of chest pain
The classic symptoms of heartburn — a painful, burning sensation behind your breastbone — can be caused by problems with your heart or your stomach.
When to see a doctor
Chest pain has many possible causes, all of which deserve medical attention.
Muscle and bone causes
Chest pain isn't always caused by heart problems. But, because you can't always determine the cause yourself, don't delay in seeking medical attention. ...
Preparing for your appointment
Call for an ambulance or have someone drive you to an emergency room if you experience new or unexplained chest pain or pressure that lasts for more than a few moments. Don't waste any time for fear of embarrassment if it's not a heart attack. Even if there's another cause for your chest pain, you need to be seen right away.
What you can do
Once you're at the hospital, it's likely that your medical evaluation will move ahead rapidly. Based on results from an electrocardiogram (ECG) and blood tests, your doctor may be able to quickly determine if you are having a heart attack — or give you another explanation for your symptoms. You'll probably have a number of questions at this point. If you haven't received the following information, you may want to ask:
Don't hesitate to ask any additional questions that occur to you during your medical evaluation.
What to expect from the doctor
Tests and diagnosis
Chest pain doesn't always signal a heart attack. But that's what emergency room doctors will test for first because it's potentially the most immediate threat to your life. They may also check for life-threatening lung conditions — such as a collapsed lung or a clot in your lung.
Treatments and drugs
Treatment will vary, depending on the underlying cause of your chest pain.
Surgical and other procedures
Last Updated: 2011-12-01
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