When is Chest Pain Serious?

When is chest pain (angina) serious enough that you should visit the ER? 

Rob Lamberts, MD,
April 11, 2018
Episode #035

Page 4 of 4

When Is Chest Pain NOT a Heart Attack?

There are some symptoms that reassure me the chest pain isn’t related to the heart:

Pain that persists for hours – heart chest pain will either go away after 20-30 minutes, or will end up in a heart attack. 

Pain that gets worse with movement – or pain that gets worse when you press on that area of the chest is probably from the muscles or the bones in the chest, not the heart.

Pain that you can point to with a single finger – heart pain tends to be hard to pinpoint.

Pain that is triggered with breathing in – very brief, sharp pain that occurs with taking a deep breath is a typical presentation of pleuritis, inflammation of the lining of the lungs.

I hope these tips help you.  Learn the symptoms of heart pain and know your risk factors. If you are experiencing an acute chest pain more consistent with heart symptoms and/or have atypical symptoms and risk factors for heart disease, get to the emergency room immediately, even if you have to call an ambulance. If you are high risk and have classic symptoms, get to the emergency room immediately, even if you have to call an ambulance.

Remember: it’s always OK to get things checked out.  It’s far better to be seen for symptoms that are not serious than to stay home with serious symptoms.

Check out the episodes on what causes heart attacks and on how to detect heart problems to learn more. The American Heart Association’s page on heart attacks is also a good resource

Share your ideas and learn more quick and dirty tips with us on the House Call Doctor’s FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest pages! If you learned anything here today, or simply enjoy all-things-medical, you can also listen and subscribe to the House Call Doctor podcast on iTunes, Spotify, Soundcloud, GooglePlay, and Stitcher.

Let me remind you that this podcast is for informational purposes only. My goal is to add to your medical knowledge and translate some of the weird medical stuff you hear, so when you do go to your doctor, your visits will be more fruitful. I don’t intend to replace your doctor; he or she is the one you should always consult about your own medical condition.

Sanaz Majd, MD, also contributed to this article, which was updated on September 28, 2016.

Woman with Chest Pain and Man with Chest Pain images from Shutterstock


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