3 Types of Chest Pain That Won’t Kill You
Not all chest pains are symptoms of a heart attack. Learn which symptoms could be signaling trouble and which are probably something else.
Some types of chest pain should send you to the emergency room immediately.
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If you experience new or unexplained pain, pressure or discomfort in the center of your chest or in your arms, back, jaw, neck or upper stomach — along with shortness of breath, a cold sweat, nausea, fatigue or lightheadedness — for at least five minutes, call 911.
These symptoms may signal a heart attack, or myocardial infarction. Immediate treatment is essential to save heart muscle.
But when chest aches and pains are fleeting, it’s often something different.
Cardiologist Curtis Rimmerman, MD, notes that the following symptoms are unlikely to signal a heart attack:
Dr. Rimmerman emphasizes that the symptoms of heart attack or angina can vary greatly from person to person. Some people experience no symptoms at all. Others experience crushing chest pain. Still others may feel only arm, throat or jaw discomfort.
But the discomfort is unrelenting, typically lasting five minutes or more (even up to half an hour or, rarely, two hours).
“Regardless of where the pain is, people typically can’t find a position that relieves the pain,” Dr. Rimmerman says. “Nor do they find relief by taking a drink of water, popping antacids or taking deep breaths.”
That’s when it’s important to call 911 to get emergency treatment.
If chest discomfort is fleeting but severe, make an appointment to see your primary care doctor. But when in doubt, Dr. Rimmerman advises, “Err on the side of caution, and visit a doctor or emergency room.”