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Chest Pains: When Should You Go To Urgent Care?

Chest pain is a common complaint that can happen to anyone, but more so to adults and seniors. It is so common that studies have suggested that about 25% of the population will experience it at least once in their lifetime. In fact, it was also reported that almost 5% of all ER visits were due to chest pain. 

Chest pain is not a normal occurrence. It is a clinical symptom that usually denotes a problem in the heart, lungs, ribs, esophagus, muscles, nerves, or abdomen. 

Any discomfort in the chest can be caused by life-threatening conditions, and the only way to know for sure is to have a physician assess you. 

We encourage you to focus on your cardiovascular health and learn how to take care of your heart. In this article, we will discuss chest pains and their accompanying symptoms, causes, and what to do when faced with these symptoms.

What are the symptoms of chest pain?

Chest pain refers to any aches or discomfort felt at the front of the body between the neck and upper abdomen. It can manifest in many different forms and may be described as the following:

  • A dull ache
  • Sharp pain
  • Burning pain
  • Stabbing pain
  • A tightness or crushing sensation

Furthermore, pain in your chest can also spread to other parts of the body, depending on their root cause. The pain can travel to the neck, jaw, back, and arms.

Such aches can also have varying intensity and duration depending on their cause. Some may last for several minutes, while others manifest as a steady ache that worsens during activity. 

What causes chest pain?

Chest discomfort can have varying quality, location, intensity, and duration depending on the underlying medical cause. Physicians usually differentiate causes through symptom correlation, medical history review, and diagnostic tests. Some of the most common causes of chest pain include the following:

Heart-related chest pain

Chest pain is a common warning sign of a heart attack or heart problem. This type of pain is known medically as angina, which happens when the heart muscles don’t get enough oxygen. 

Generally, chest discomfort arising from a heart issue feels like a crushing and tight sensation in the chest. The burning or searing pain can spread to nearby body parts (e.g., neck, jaw, arms) and may worsen with activity. Other symptoms that can come with chest pains include shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and cold sweats.

Some of the specific heart issues that can cause chest pain and discomfort include the following:

  • Coronary artery disease (CAD)
  • Myocarditis
  • Pericarditis
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
  • Mitral valve prolapse
  • Myocardial infarction or heart attack
  • Aortic aneurysm
  • Aortic dissection

Lung-related chest pain

Chest pains originating from the left or right side of the chest may point to a lung-related medical condition. This type of pain usually causes pinpoint discomfort or piercing pain, especially when breathing and coughing. Some of the possible lung conditions that might be causing such a symptom include:

  • Pneumonia or lung abscess
  • Pleuritis
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Pneumothorax
  • Asthma
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD
  • Pulmonary hypertension

These conditions can cause chest ache when there’s inflammation in the lungs, infection, blood clot, or a collapsed lung. Lung-related chest pain may come with other symptoms, such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, and pus discharge (for infection).

Gastrointestinal-related chest pain

The gastrointestinal or digestive tract runs from the mouth to the anus, which includes the esophagus, abdomen, and others. Any abnormalities in these structures and abdominal contents  can cause chest pain or discomfort, such as the following digestive conditions:

  • Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) - heartburn or GERD causes acid reflux or the backflow of stomach acid into the esophagus. This causes mild to moderate burning sensation or discomfort in the mid-chest.
  • Ulcer - open, painful sores in the stomach cause the acid to injure its walls, thus leading to abdominal pain that may be felt from the navel to the chest.
  • Esophageal contraction disorders - a pressure or squeezing feeling in the chest due to the abnormal muscular contraction in the esophagus.
  • Esophagitis - the inflamed esophagus walls can cause pain or discomfort under the breastbone.
  • Gallstones - formation of gallstones blocks the ducts of the gallbladder, causing it to swell. This can then cause an individual to feel extreme pain in the chest or under the ribs. 
  • Gastritis 
  • Pancreatitis

Other causes of chest pain

Pain and discomfort in the chest area may also be due to trauma to the ribs and other bones, inflammation of the cartilage, and muscle sprain and injury. Additionally, chest aches may also be a symptom of a whole other medical condition, such as shingles, lung cancer, panic attack, and anxiety attack. 

When to go to an urgent care?

It can be difficult to differentiate heart-related chest pain from GIT-related discomfort. So if you feel a sudden pressure, dull ache, or searing pain in the chest area, then it’s best to seek an urgent care facility immediately. This is especially true if chest pain comes with the following symptoms:

  • Heart palpitations or irregular heartbeat
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Sweating or cold sweats
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fainting

Chest pain, even if it comes and goes, is not a normal body reaction. So if you or a loved one experiences such a syndrome, then you should get yourself checked by a physician right away.

Normally, urgent care clinics can cater to non-cardiac-related chest pains. However, if a patient does not know the root cause of their discomfort, it’s okay to go to the ER or urgent care, whichever is accessible. 

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Get quality and immediate medical assistance at Urgent Care of the Palm Beaches

A persisting chest pain may or may not be life-threatening. So experiencing one warrants a visit to an urgent care near you to see a medical provider.

Urgent Care of the Palm Beaches offers superior medical care and comprehensive services to provide the immediate medical needs of patients. Our board-certified physicians are well-equipped and trained to manage various medical conditions, ranging from simple coughs and colds to minor fractures and injuries. 

Contact us now or visit one of our locations near you:

The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.

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