Is Chest Pain Always an Emergency?

When you feel chest pain, it can be a scary thing, but it doesn't necessarily mean something serious. However, it is a general rule that you shouldn't ignore significant chest pain. If you are dealing with chest pain, the following information can help you decide if it is an emergency, or if you can wait to schedule an appointment with your doctor.

When should you seek emergency help?

There are certain situations where you should get medical attention as soon as possible if you are having chest pain. If any of these are true for you, treat your chest pain like an emergency:

  • You have a family history of heart disease
  • You are an older adult and are obese, have a sedentary lifestyle, smoke cigarettes, or have diabetes
  • You are also experiencing dizziness, shortness of breath, weakness, sweating, or nausea
  • You feel a radiating pain through your arms and shoulders
  • You feel a tightness, heaviness, or squeezing feeling in your chest
  • You feel and overwhelming sense of doom associated with the chest pain

When is it not considered an emergency?

Luckily, not all cases of chest pain are signs of an emergency situation. If the pain you are experiencing is something you have had before, it is likely not an emergency. Other reasons you may not need emergency attention is if the pain is somewhat fleeting or momentary, or if it gets better when you change positions.

If you suffer from anxiety disorder or panic attacks, keep in mind chest pains can feel worse than they are. It is important to get medical attention for anxiety disorders to keep these side effects at bay. Even if it's not an emergency, you still not put off scheduling an appointment with your doctor.

Seeking Immediate Help

If you feel that based on your symptoms, you are dealing with an emergency situation, do not try to drive to the hospital yourself. If you don't have someone to drive you, or you live far from the hospital, call 911 instead. Not only will the paramedics get to you quickly, but they can begin evaluating your baseline and overall medical condition during the ride.

If it is an emergency, they might be able to stabilize you before you get to the hospital, which is essential to recovering from any type of episode with your heart.

Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing chronic chest pains. You may be sent to a heart specialist to find out if you have a condition or disease that needs to be addressed.