Common Causes of Chest Pain

December 5, 2014
chest pain

Although most people associate chest pain with heart attacks, there are a variety of other potential causes. Many times, chest pain or discomfort originates from problems with the muscles, nerves, esophagus, lungs, or ribs. Unfortunately, since chest pain can be a sign of life-threatening health issues, it's important to seek medical attention to determine the exact origin of the problem.
Potential Causes
Most often, chest pain manifests as a sharp, aching, dull, stabbing or burning sensation. You may also feel a squeezing, tightness or crushing sensation, especially if the symptoms are related to a heart problem. There are several potential causes of chest pain, including:

  • Heart-related causes
  • Heart attack
  • Angina
  • Aortic dissection
  • Pericarditis
  • Digestive causes
  • Swallowing disorders
  • Heartburn
  • Pancreas or gallbladder problems
  • Bone and muscle causes
  • Injured ribs
  • Sore muscles
  • Costochondritis
  • Lung-related causes
  • Pleurisy
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Collapsed lung
  • Other causes
  • Shingles
  • Panic attacks

Testing Procedures
Chest pain isn't always caused by heart problems; however, emergency room doctors will test for these first, because they're the most immediate threat to your life. Some of the first tests you will undergo include:

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG): This will test your heart's electrical activity through electrodes attached to your skin.
  • Blood tests: This can reveal the presence of enzymes that have been released from damaged heart muscle.
  • Chest X-ray: This will help doctors assess the size, shape, and condition of your heart, lungs, and major blood vessels.

Depending on the results of these tests, you may require follow-up testing, which may include an echocardiogram, CT scan, MRI, angiogram, or stress tests. If the cause of your pain is not able to be determined, a follow up with a cardiologist will likely be necessary.
Take Your Symptoms Seriously
Although your chest pain may originate from a minor issue, it could also be caused by a potentially fatal heart problem. Only a medical professional can accurately diagnose the source of your symptoms, so it's important to seek help as soon as possible. Without medical intervention, heart-related chest pain can quickly result in permanent physical impairments or death, so take your symptoms seriously and seek help right away.
If you are experiencing mild to persistent chest pain, visit the nearest PhysicianOne Urgent Care or emergency room near you. If you are having sudden, severe pain, call 9-1-1 immediately.

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