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You have heard that chest pain can be serious. It can signal a heart attack. It might be a rare, life-threatening problem. But it could be quite the opposite. It could be not at all serious.
When is chest pain not serious?
It is wise to learn when chest pain is not serious. You will want to check your symptoms with a licensed professional, but here are 7 examples of chest pain that is probably not immediately serious.
1. Acid reflux or heartburn: Chest pain can seem to be heart pain when it is related to the digestive tract. When acid refluxes (flows back) into the esophagus, it can cause a burning sensation in the chest. This chest pain can be mistaken for heart pain – the reason it was named as it was, even though it has nothing to do with the heart. This chest pain is not serious if it is occasional. If it happens frequently, you may be developing GERD, a more serious condition. To determine if this chest pain is serious, consider whether it came soon after eating. Try using an antacid. If the discomfort is relieved, it is probably heartburn.
2. Bruising: Chest pain can occur due to bruising of the outer chest. Perhaps you were moving furniture or other large objects. At the time, you didn’t realize you had hurt yourself. Later, you experience chest pain, but it is not serious.
3. Nerves: When is chest pain not serious? The roots of every nerve in the body are in the spinal cord. Smaller nerves branch from them along the neck and upper back. Chest pain can occur if one of these nerves is pinched where it leaves the spine. Chest pains caused by pinched nerves are sharp “shooting” pains. They may be triggered by moving your neck or arms in certain ways. They may be felt in the left or right part of the chest. These are not immediately serious chest pains.
4. Rib Injury: Chest pain can be caused by a bruised or fractured rib. This chest pain will be localized, right or left side, near a rib. It will be a sharp pain, and may increase when the rib area is touched. This chest pain is likely to increase when coughing.
5. Strains/sprains: When it is a result of a strain or sprain to one of the many muscles, bones, tendons, and cartilages in the chest, chest pain is probably not serious. These chest pains last for only a few seconds. They may return frequently over a period of days, and may be brought on, or relieved, by moving into certain positions. They are non-cardiac symptoms.
6. Stress: When is chest pain not serious? When it is caused by stress, your chest pain is not serious. As you respond to unusual demands on your body, emotions, or mind, you may tighten the muscles of the chest. This causes chest pain. With the pain, you may experience intense fear. Your heartbeat may increase, your breathing become rapid. You may perspire profusely and feel shortness of breath. This could be an anxiety or panic attack.
7. Ulcers: Another form of chest pain that is triggered by a digestive tract problem is the pain of an ulcer in the stomach or duodenum. This chest pain, like the pain of acid reflux or heartburn, is often felt in the upper abdomen or lower chest. As above, ask whether it was triggered by eating. Try getting relief with antacids. Although ulcer chest pains are not immediately serious, you should seek medical advice.
The Other Side of the Coin
Asking, when is chest pain not serious, should be followed by asking the opposite question: when is chest pain serious?
Chest pain can be caused by heart attack, probably the most life-threatening condition. Other heart conditions can also cause chest pain, and should receive medical attention.
Pleurisy, with its sharp, localized chest pain, is made worse when you cough or breathe in. Pleurisy is caused by inflammation of the membrane lining the chest cavity and covering the lungs. A blood clot can lodge in a lung artery, blocking blood flow to the tissue of the lungs. This condition, a pulmonary embolism, is similar to pleurisy in that the localized chest pain is made worse by a cough or deep breath. Other lung conditions can also cause chest pain.
Shingles, a nerve infection caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox, often causes chest pain. This is a sharp, burning pain. It may begin a few hours or a day before a band of blisters appears on your back and chest.
Err on the Side of Caution
If you cannot find an explanation for your chest pain, and it persists, take an aspirin and seek emergency medical care. If your pains feel like pressure or tightness in your chest, do you have these other symptoms?
1. shortness of breath
5. pain radiating to one or both arms or neck
If your chest pain includes any of those symptoms, seek emergency medical care immediately.
Do not worry about what people will think if your chest pain is not serious. Chest pain is one of the most frequent reasons people call for emergency medical help. Often that chest pain is not related to a heart problem. You may be embarrassed if that happens to you. Don’t be. Even if your chest pain is not serious, it is better to go to the emergency room for evaluation.
CAUTION: The author is not a medical professional, and offers the information in this article for educational purposes only. Please discuss it with your health care provider before relying on it in any way.