Home CHEST PAIN – A Sign of Heart Attack or is it Something Else?

CHEST PAIN – A Sign of Heart Attack or is it Something Else?

Verified By Apollo Cardiologist June 12, 2019 7720 0


Is chest pain a serious problem? What makes it serious like a heart attack? That burning sensation in your chest which does not subside and feels like it is getting worse. Could it be a heart attack, or something else? It is a frustrating question that many people and doctors face every day. Read on to know more and get help immediately if you or any of your loved ones suffer from chest pain?

Apart from a heart attack, chest pain can occur due to many other conditions including pneumonia, pancreatitis, or maybe, panic attack.

Most of the chest pain patients in the emergency department of various hospitals are not suffering from a heart attack. In fact, while few (about 20%) are diagnosed with heart problems like heart attack, heart failure unstable angina, or a warning sign of a heart attack; other few suffer from  potentially life-threatening conditions, like aortic dissection (tear in aorta’s inner layer), pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lungs). Some may experience angina, chest pain that occurs when part of your heart is not getting enough oxygen-rich blood as required during the periods of emotional stress or physical exertion. Nevertheless, most of the emergency room patients suffering from chest pain have conditions not related to the heart or the arteries.

A tricky problem with a heart attack is that the symptoms are often not the same for all. Different people experience it in different ways. While some have chest pain, others experience jaw or back pain. Still, others may get the nauseating feeling, breathlessness, or extremely fatigued.

Heart Attack Symptoms and Chest Pain

Chest pain is one of the potential signs of an imminent heart attack. If you see one or more one of the signs mentioned below in yourself or someone else, call your local medical emergency number and seek medical help immediately.

  • Uncomfortable fullness, squeezing, pressure, burning sensation, tightness, or pain in the center of your chest
  • Uncomfortable sensations like prickling, numbness, pinching or aching in one or both arms, the jaw, back, stomach or neck.
  • Sudden pain, weakness or heaviness in one or both arms.
  • Sudden nausea or vomiting.
  • Complete Heart Block
  • Unusual fatigue
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cold Sweat

What to Describe Chest Pain to a Doctor

Doctors ask several questions and use these pieces of information, in order to determine who is, and who is not having a heart attack, apart from the description of your symptoms including your heart risk profile, doctors may also make use of the results of a blood test called cardiac troponin and an electrocardiogram (ECG) test. However, these tests sometimes do not show abnormalities immediately.  Therefore, your medical history and a detailed description to the doctor is very important to determine initial steps towards your treatment.

Your doctor may want to you to answers some typical questions that you may be experiencing to get a clear diagnosis. They include:

  • Where is the uneasiness/discomfort?
  • What is it you are feeling (pressure, pain, tightness, etc.)?
  • When did this start?
  • Is it the same or has it got worsened?
  • Does the feeling come and go, or is it the same?
  • Did you ever feel this before?
  • What were you exactly doing before these feelings started?

Proper answers to the above questions may help your doctor obtain a clear diagnosis of the problem.

Symptoms of Chest Pain and what they could mean

Could be a Heart Attack :

  • A sensation of pressure, burning, squeezing, tightness or pain
  • Pain that travels to the jaw, left arm, neck, or back
  • Pressure or pain that appears during or after emotional stress or physical exertion or even while you are resting
  • Slow onset of pain in a few minutes time
  • Pressure or pain coupled with other signs, like sudden nausea, cold sweat or difficulty breathing
  • Constant pain in the middle of the chest.

Could not be a Heart Attack :

  • Sharp or knife-like pain due to coughing or heavy breathing
  • Pain that is only on one small spot
  • Pain when the chest is pressed or with body motion
  • Sudden stabbing-like pain that is there only for few seconds
  • Pain continues for many hours or days without showing other symptoms
  • Pain clearly on one or the other side of the body.

When chest pains are serious

Unlike knee pain or lower back pain, chest pain cannot be ignored or shrugged off until the next day. It is not something that can be diagnosed or treated at home. If you are suffering from chest pain, check with your doctor immediately. Do not delay if you are experiencing uneasiness or pain in your chest, left arm, upper back, jaw, or suddenly develop nausea, vomiting, cold sweat — Call your doctor or your local emergency center immediately to summon an ambulance with an emergency medical team.

There can be many reasons to delay calling for help.

  • I work out regularly and I am in great shape: Sometimes a heart attack is the first sign of heart disease.
  • I am still young: People as young as 20-something have suffered a heart attack.
  • I am the sole earning member of my family: It becomes all the more reason to go to the hospital fast
  • I do not wish to be a bother: You will be a bigger bother ending up dead or even worse, with advanced heart failure.
  • What if it isn’t a heart attack?: Your doctor would evaluate this and when a heart attack is ruled out; your doctor would look for other causes of your chest pain. Your doctor will work with you to get to the bottom of your chest pain and will try to ease it. If you have chest pain  & Heart-related problem consult with  the best cardiologist in India


Chest pain is a serious condition. Do not ignore the warning signs. If you think your chest pain could be due to heart attack, take immediate action. The sooner you are checked for chest pain, the better the chances  to protect your heart from any imminent permanent damage.

Knowing the signs and making lifestyle changes can surely help. Take action now! Enroll in our comprehensive Healthy Heart Program to keep your heart healthy. 

Verified By Apollo Cardiologist

The content is reviewed and verified by our experienced and highly specialized team of heart specialists who diagnose and treat more than 200 simple-to-complex heart conditions. These specialists dedicate a portion of their clinical time to deliver trustworthy and medically accurate content

8000+ Top doctors Associated and Apollo Hospitals is continuosly ranked as No1 Multispecialty Hospitals in India with best in class treatments for Cancer, Knee replacements, Liver Transplant, Heart, Diabetes, Kidney.

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