The purpose of this article is to help you understand chest pain what it feels like, what might be causing it, how it should be evaluated, and when to treat it as an emergency.
What is chest pain?Chest pain is an imprecise term. It is often used to describe any pain, pressure, squeezing, choking, numbness or any other discomfort in the chest, neck, or upper abdomen, and is often associated with pain in the jaw, head, or arms. It can last from less than a second to days or weeks, can occur frequently or rarely, and can occur sporadically or predictably. With such a broad definition, you can see why the term chest pain is itself of little help to doctors.
It is important to keep in mind that chest pain is merely a symptom, not a diagnosis. And because it can be a symptom of anything from a catastrophic to a trivial medical problem, when a person experiences chest pain it is important to try to characterize that pain as rapidly as possible as being either completely benign, or possibly significant.
What medical problems cause chest pain?Chest pain is merely a symptom, not a diagnosis. Many medical problems can cause chest pain, and before the chest pain can be adequately treated, the actual underlying cause needs to be identified. The following is a list of the more common causes of chest pain, roughly in order of the frequency in which they are seen in the emergency room. Click on any of these causes of chest pain for more details:
- angina due to coronary artery disease
- heart attack
- benign chest wall pain
- anxiety or panic disorder
- asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, pleuritis
- mitral valve prolapse
- recent chest trauma
- peptic ulcer
- angina due to coronary artery spasm
- angina due to cardiac syndrome X
- aortic dissection