Did you know that chest pain is the symptom that takes more patients to an Emergency Department than almost any other?
The advertising campaigns that encourage people to seek immediate medical help if they experience chest pain have certainly been a success.
These campaigns were targeting potential heart attack patients, as immediate care can mean the difference between life and death.
However, heart problems are only one health concern that can have chest pain as a symptom. You should not assume that you know the cause of your chest pain – always seek medical assistance immediately to be on the safe side.
Several tests may be necessary to determine what the problem is, but you will at least be in the right place to receive treatment should your condition be serious.
Of course, your chest pain could be an indication of something less dangerous like indigestion or stress.
Some of the other causes of chest pain include stress and tension, bruised chest muscles, strained muscles in the trunk, including the ribs, from coughing or over-exercising, reflux, pneumonia, shingles, heart and blood vessel problems, acute anxiety or gastrointestinal pain.
To determine the cause of your chest pain, there are tests that might be needed; perhaps a CT scan or x-ray, blood or urine tests, or maybe your medical history will provide the answer as to the cause of the pain.
You will be asked about previous conditions, surgery and medical problems, and it is really important to give a full and honest history to help the doctors correctly diagnose your condition.
The doctors will also ask you various questions about the pain you are currently experiencing, in an effort to find the cause. You might find all the questions annoying or difficult but it is necessary for the medical team to fully understand the type of pain you are experiencing.
Understanding the nature of the pain helps the doctor to discard certain diagnosis and get closer to the cause of your problem through a process of elimination.
This process is called differential diagnosis and it is an accepted method of coming to the correct diagnosis without having to wait for the results of multiple tests.
As with any sudden sharp pain, chest pain is cause for alarm and should be attended to as a matter of urgency. Don’t adopt a ‘wait and see’ attitude in the case of chest pain – seek urgent medical help.
If it turns out not to be a life-threatening condition, you can breathe a sigh of relief, but until you have been cleared by a doctor, don’t take any chances.