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Is it a chest pain emergency? How to know

Emergency for chest pain

Chest pain symptoms aren’t something to ignore, no matter what. But understanding when the ache is a chest pain emergency that warrants going to the hospital right away and when it can wait until your next doctor visit is good to know. It can come in handy for your own health and for those around you. Here are some of the common symptoms of serious and non-serious aching.

Common causes of chest pain

A sharp stap or a dull ache can occur for many more reasons than a heart attack. People who suffer with anxiety, for example, can feel tightness in the chest area, especially during an anxiety attack.

This symptom can feel very scary and many people seek medical advice during anxiety attacks. Another common cause of chest pain is fractured or broken bones.

If you think you broke a rib, seek medical advice immediately. Acid reflux, gallstones and angina can all cause mild to severe chest pain too. For more information on chest pain causes, click the link.

Chest pain emergency symptoms

Below are some of the common signs and symptoms that suggest chest pain is a medical emergency and needs immediate treatment:

  • Strong genetic history of heart attacks or heart disease
  • Over 40 years of age and have at least one risk factor for heart disease (obesity, smoking, diabetes or high cholesterol)
  • Severe pain
  • A sense of “doom”
  • Pain that worsens over a 10-minute period
  • Chest heaviness/tightness
  • Weakness of the body
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fainting
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Pain that extends to the arm (commonly left), shoulders, or jaw

Chest pain will always be treated as an emergency if you visit the ER. It is best to rule out anything more serious before looking for the underlying cause.

What to do in a chest pain emergency

If you find yourself in an emergency situation in which someone is suffering with severe chest pain, below are vital steps you must take:

  • Call emergency services immediately and explain the situation
  • Make the person comfortable (on the floor if possible, knees bent, and back straight and supported)
  • Monitor conscious levels
  • Start CPR if the person becomes unresponsive and you feel able to do so

Emergency services will guide you on what to do next. But knowing how to deal with this situation and carry out effective CPR could save a life.

Signs it’s not an emergency

While these are common signs that your chest pain isn’t an emergency, you shouldn’t take this as a definitive guide. Seek medical attention if it doesn’t pass or you’re worried.

  • Pain that only occurs when moving in a specific way
  • Fleeting pain that goes away and has no other symptoms
  • You experienced this pain previously and it was proven not to be a clinical emergency


Your chest pain could also be a symptom of anemia caused by a parasite. If you aren’t sure whether your chest pain is serious or not, it is always best to get checked to rule out anything more serious. After all, they say it is better to be safe than sorry, and you aren’t wasting anyone’s time if you worry about your health.

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