Get answers to your heart disease prevention questions.
Chest tightness; Chest pressure; Chest discomfort
For many causes of chest pain, it is best to check with your doctor or nurse before treating yourself at home.
If injury, overuse, or coughing has caused muscle strain, your chest wall is often tender or painful when you press a finger on the site of the pain. This can often be treated at home. Try acetaminophen or ibuprofen, ice, heat, and rest.
If you know you have asthma or angina, follow your doctor's instructions and take your medications regularly to avoid flare-ups.
See: Heartburn for information about treatment at home.
Call 911 if:
Your risk of having a heart attack is greater if:
Call your doctor if:
Emergency measures will be taken, if needed. You may need to go to the hospital if your heart problem is serious, or the cause of the pain is unclear.
The doctor will do a physical exam and monitor your vital signs (temperature, pulse, breathing rate, blood pressure). The physical exam will focus on the chest wall, lungs, and heart. Your doctor may ask questions such as:
Which tests are done depends on the cause of the pain. Often, one or more of the following tests may be done first:
Brown JE, Hamilton GC. Chest Pain. In: Marx J, ed. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier;2009:chap 18.
Anderson JL, Adams CD, Antman EM, et al. ACC/AHA Guidelines for the Management of Patients With Unstable Angina and Non-ST-Segment Elevation Myocardial Infarction: A Report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines (Committee on the Management of Patients with Unstable Angina). Circulation. 2007;116:803-877.
Sabatine MS, Cannon CP. Approach to the patient with chest pain. In: Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 53.
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