What Does My Chest Pain Mean? Use This Checklist to Determine If It’s Serious

Find out whether you’re just experiencing normal chest pain, or something more serious.

By Madeline Merinuk
What Does My Chest Pain Mean? Use This Checklist to Determine If It’s Serious

Chest pain is a serious concern for all Americans, especially people who are more susceptible to heart-related diseases. Cardiologists agree that chest pains are among the most worrisome types of pain you can experience, and if you’ve ever experienced chest pain in any capacity, you know that it can be extremely anxiety-inducing. If you’ve ever wondered, “What does my chest pain mean?” don't worry — Dr. Oz spoke with cardiologists and co-authors of the book, Am I Dying? Dr. Marc Eisenberg and Dr. Christopher Kelly shared some information about how to identify your unwanted chest pain.

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Take a Deep Breath

No, really — Dr. Eisenberg and Dr. Kelly both say that taking a deep breath can help you identify a certain type of chest pain. If you take a deep breath and have pain in just one spot, you most likely just pulled a muscle in your ribs. This pain may also hurt when you twist and turn your body. Pulled muscles in the ribs produce a sharp pain while you breathe, and according to Medical News Today, you can reduce this pain by using an ice pack or a heating pad and reducing your physical activity until the muscle is healed. 

Pain After Eating

Have you ever eaten a big meal, and then started having chest pain shortly after you finish? Don't worry, you're not having a heart attack. Dr. Kelly and Dr. Eisenberg say that this is a tell-tale sign of acid reflux, which is the cause of that unwanted chest and belly pain after you eat. Other signs of acid reflux include having a bad taste in your mouth after you eat or having bad breath.

How to Know If You’re Having a Heart Attack

Chest pain is a symptom that many people associate with an impending heart attack, which isn’t wrong, but according to a study published by Harvard Medical School, there are other symptoms to look out for if you’re nervous about having a heart attack. According to Harvard Medical School, the following symptoms are likely signs that you could be having a heart attack:

  • Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, burning, tightness, or pain in the center of the chest
  • Pain, numbness, pinching, prickling, or other uncomfortable sensations in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sudden nausea or vomiting
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Unusual fatigue
  • Heat/flushing or a cold sweat
  • Sudden heaviness, weakness, or aching in one or both arms

See a Doctor

Regardless of whether you believe your chest pain is a heart attack or not, you should still consult a doctor. Just because you’re not experiencing common heart attack symptoms doesn’t mean you aren’t at risk for one. In fact, Dr. Kelly, Dr. Eisenberg, and Dr. Oz all advise consulting with a doctor, regardless of your symptoms, just to be safe. It's always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to something as important as your heart health. 

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Article written by Madeline Merinuk