What is chest pain?
Chest pain ranges from a sharp stab to a dull ache. Sometimes it feels crushing or burning. In certain cases, the pain travels up the neck, into the jaw, and then radiates to the back or down one or both arms.
How bad is my chest pain?
Mild: Mild pain without limiting any activities of daily life.
Moderate: Moderate pain; limiting instrumental activities of daily life (preparing meals, managing money, shopping, doing housework, and using a telephone).
Severe: Severe pain; limiting self-care activities of daily life (eating, dressing, getting into or out of a bed or chair, taking a bath or shower, and using the toilet).
How to manage mild chest pain?
- Lie down in a comfortable position with your head up.
- Stop doing activities that causes pain. Remain calm.
- If you have regular adult aspirin, chew one (as long as you are not allergic to aspirin). Chewing more than one will not do any good and may cause unwanted side effects.
- Antacids or certain procedures for acid reflux and heartburn, which may treat the symptoms
- Anti-anxiety medications, which may treat chest pain related to panic attacks
How to manage moderate to severe chest pain?
Seek emergency treatment immediately if you think you may be having a heart attack and especially if your pain is new, unexplained, or lasts more than a few moments. Call your doctor, if you have any of these symptoms along with the pain:
- A sudden feeling of pressure, squeezing, tightness, or crushing under your breastbone that spreads to your jaw, left arm, or back.
- Sudden, sharp pain with shortness of breath, especially after a long period of inactivity.
- Nausea, dizziness, rapid heart rate or rapid breathing, confusion, ashen color, or excessive sweating.
- Very low blood pressure or heart rate.
- Fever, chills, or coughing up yellow-green mucus.
- Dysphagia (Painful swallowing).
- Severe pain that does not go away.
What causes chest pain?
While it is a well-established sign of a heart attack, it can also be caused by many other less serious conditions.
The following are heart-related causes of pain:
- Heart attack
- Certain chemotherapy medications like 5-fluorouracil (5-FU).
- Angina, which is pain caused by blockages in the blood vessels leading to your heart.
- Pericarditis, which is an inflammation of the sac around the heart.
- Myocarditis (an inflammation of the heart muscle).
- Cardiomyopathy, which is a disease of the heart muscle.
- Aortic dissection (A rare condition involving a tear of the aorta, the large vessel that comes off of the heart).
The following are gastrointestinal causes are
- Heartburn (GERD/Acid Reflux
- Swallowing problems related to disorders of the esophagus
- inflammation of the gallbladder or pancreas
The following are lung-related causes are
- viral bronchitis
- a blood clot, or pulmonary embolus
Bronchospasms commonly occur in people who have asthma and related disorders such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Muscle- or bone-related causes
The following are causes related to the muscles or bones:
- bruised or broken ribs
- sore muscles from exertion or chronic pain syndromes
- compression fractures causing pressure on a nerve
Shingles can cause pain. You may develop pain along your back or before the shingles rash becomes apparent. Panic attacks can also cause chest pain.
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