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How to tell if chest pain is muscular—and why you should get care

How to tell if chest pain is muscular—and why you should get care

If you’ve ever wondered how to tell if chest pain is muscular, you’re not alone. It’s a common question but one we’ll always answer with a caveat: Any chest pain needs attention.

Pain in the chest can have many different causes, and not all of them are related to the heart. You can experience chest discomfort because of a chronic condition such as gastroesophageal reflux disease or due to a mental health issue such as anxiety. Injuries or infections affecting the lungs or chest can also cause chest pain.

The most well-known cause of chest pain, though, is a heart attack. Heart attacks, also called myocardial infarctions, occur when a blood vessel supplying the heart with blood is blocked. The longer the heart goes without blood, the more damage occurs. This can be dangerous and even deadly.

That’s why any chest pain should be checked out by a medical provider. Keep reading as our East Jefferson General Hospital team shares some insight.

The signs of a heart attack

It’s important to know the warning signs of a heart attack and what to do if they occur. Chest pain is the most common symptom of a heart attack, and it can feel like general discomfort, squeezing, burning or pressure in the chest.

Along with chest pain, a heart attack may also cause:

  • Dizziness
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Flushing or a cold sweat
  • Heaviness or weakness in one or both arms
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Pain or other uncomfortable sensations in the neck, jaw, abdomen or arms
  • Shortness of breath

If you experience any of these symptoms, call 911. The EMT crew will be able to begin providing care in route to the hospital if a heart attack is suspected. At the hospital, you’ll receive care from cardiovascular specialists, with a focus on restoring blood flow to the heart as quickly as possible.

When to get care for chest pain

Not all instances of chest pain warrant a trip to the ER, but it can be difficult to determine on your own whether chest pain is serious. Consider the type of pain you experience and any other symptoms that are present. If the pain feels sharp and occurs with certain movements or deep breaths, for example, it most likely is a muscle strain in the chest.

With that said, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Chest pain or discomfort is worth a visit to a medical provider for a proper diagnosis. A provider will review your medical history, conduct a physical exam and order imaging tests to make a diagnosis and offer a treatment plan.

Why chest pain is always an emergency

If you’re having a heart attack, there’s no time to wait. Every minute you wait, the heart is damaged more, which can impact how well (or even if) you recover. Immediate treatment is needed to restore blood flow and limit damage to your heart.

We’d rather see you for a pulled chest muscle and send you home than have you experience a heart attack and wait to get treatment.

When you need us, we’re here. Learn more about the full range of emergency services offered at East Jefferson General Hospital’s Emergency Department.