Chest Pain

Chest pain can come from a lot of things. These include:


  • A heart attack.
  • Lung problems like pneumonia, bronchitis, or an injury.
  • A hiatal hernia – known in medical terms as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
  • Heartburn.
  • Shingles.
  • A pulled muscle.
  • Mitral valve prolapse. A common disorder, especially in women, in which the mitral valve of the heart fails to close properly. In most people, this is not a serious problem.
  • Anxiety.
  • Swallowing too much air.

How do you know when you need medical help for chest pain? It’s not always easy to tell. If you’re not sure why your chest hurts, it’s best to check it out. Getting help for a heart attack or lung injury could save your life.




Self-Care Tips

For chest pain that results from a pulled muscle or minor injury to the rib cage:


  • Do not strain the muscle or ribs while pain is felt.
  • Rest.
  • Take a pain reliever such as aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen. [Note: Do not give aspirin or any medication containing salicylates to anyone 19 years of age or younger unless directed by a physician, due to its association with Reye’s Syndrome, a potentially fatal condition.]
  • Do call your doctor, though, if the pain lasts longer than two days.

For chest pain associated with a hiatal hernia:

  • Lose weight if you are overweight.
  • Eat 5-6 frequent meals, instead of 3 meals a day. Do not eat large meals.
  • Avoid tobacco, alcohol, coffee, spicy foods, peppermint, chocolate, citrus juices and carbonated beverages.
  • If you have heartburn, take antacids after meals and before going to bed.
  • Do not eat food or drink milk two hours before going to bed.
  • Avoid bending over or lying down after eating.
  • Do not wear tight clothing, tight belts, or girdles.
  • Raise the head of your bed about 3 to 4 inches (40 degree angle), when you sleep.

For chest pain that results from anxiety and hyperventilation:

  • Talk over the source of your anxiety with family, friends, and clergy. If this is not enough, you may need the help of a professional counselor or psychiatrist.
  • When you hyperventilate, cover your mouth and nose with a paper bag. Breathe into the paper bag slowly and re-breathe the air. Do this in and out at least 10 times. Remove the bag and breathe normally a few minutes. Repeat breathing in and out of the paper bag as needed.
  • Avoid using large amounts of aspirin or other salicylate-containing medicines. [Note: Do not give aspirin or any medication containing salicylates to anyone 19 years of age or younger unless directed by a physician, due to its association with Reye’s Syndrome, a potentially fatal condition.]

For chest pain associated with mitral valve prolapse (MVP):

  • Eat healthy foods. Avoid caffeine.
  • After checking with your doctor, exercise regularly to improve cardiovascular fitness.
  • Deal with and control stress and avoid anxiety-producing situations, if possible.
  • Don’t smoke.



Questions to Ask



















































































Is the chest pain accompanied by any of the following?

  • Pain that spreads (radiates) to the arm, neck or jaw
  • Feeling of pressure, especially on the left side
  • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Uneven pulse or heartbeat
  • Sense of doom


Yes: Seek Emergency Care

No


Did the chest pain result from a serious injury? Does it hurt all the time and/or is it getting worse?

Yes: Seek Emergency Care

No


Does the chest pain occur in a person who has had a recent operation or illness that has kept them in bed?

Yes: Seek Emergency Care

No


Does the chest pain occur in a person with a history of heart problems or in a person with angina and not respond to prescribed medicine?

Yes: Seek Emergency Care

No


Is there trouble breathing along with the chest pain? Does it get worse when taking deep breaths or when you touch your chest or ribs?

Yes: See Doctor

No


Are one or more of the following present?

  • Fever
  • Cough with sputum of any color (pink, green, yellow, gray, etc.)


Yes: See Doctor

No


Do you have any of these problems with the chest pain?

  • Palpitations
  • Light-headedness
  • Dizziness, feeling faint
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • A heart murmur heard by a health care provider


Yes: See Doctor

No


Does the chest pain last longer than two days?

Yes: See Doctor

No


Is the chest pain accompanied by belching and/or a burning sensation in the upper abdomen? Does it come and go before, during, or after eating, and does it worsen when bending or lying down?

Yes: See Doctor

No


Does the chest pain stop with antacids?

Yes: See Doctor

No


Do you have any of these describe the chest pain?

  • It’s only on one side of the chest
  • It’s unaffected by breathing
  • It’s accompanied by a burning feeling and a skin rash at the pain site

Yes: Call Doctor
No

Provide Self-Care

Invalid OAuth access token.
American Institute for Preventive Medicine Written by American Institute for Preventive Medicine

We Humbly Recommend