Chest pain is not a sensation to be ignored, but it can be hard to know if you should make an appointment with your regular physician or head to the hospital pronto. That makes it important to learn when chest pain is a true emergency.

Chest pain immediately raises your alarm bells, but sometimes it comes from a benign condition and resolves on its own — quickly and without any harm to your health. How do you determine if your chest pain is a sign of something that requires immediate care?  River Oaks ER can help you understand if you should head to our offices immediately, or if you can wait for symptoms to subside.

We do say if you feel the chest pain is just off and nothing like you’ve ever experienced — you know in your gut something is wrong — head to River Oaks ER right away because it could be a sign of coronary artery disease, and the wrong decision can lead to permanent disability or death. In the scheme of things, it’s much better to be safe than sorry.

Emergency signs

Chest pain ranges from mild to severe. Although any chest pain really can signal a heart attack, severe pain is a definite reason to visit the ER. If the nature of the pain is squeezing, heavy, tight, or crushing, it’s also enough to get you to our office.

Chest pain deserves a trip to the emergency room if it radiates to your shoulders, arms, or jaw. You may experience a radiation of pain from your stomach as well, possibly including nausea, weakness, shortness of breath, and sweating. If you feel dizzy or faint with your chest pain, head to River Oaks ER right away. Chest pain that worsens over 10-15 minutes is also of dire concern.

Women may develop additional symptoms, such as feeling achy all over and experiencing disturbed sleep.

Consider your health history

Any chest pain should be of concern if you’re at high risk for heart disease and heart attack. If you’re 40 or older and have a strong family history of early heart disease, you should have your chest pain examined immediately. Other risk factors include being a smoker, having elevated cholesterol, overweight and obesity, and suffering from diabetes.

Other causes of chest pain

Chest pain might not be pointing to a heart attack, but it still be a serious medical emergency, such as a pulmonary embolism (a blood clot in your lungs) or an aortic dissection. These issues require immediate care, too.

You may be less concerned that your chest pain is related to your heart if it’s momentary and disappears quickly, especially if you have none of the other mentioned symptoms.

If you’ve had this same pain in the past and been cleared of a heart disorder or disease, then it’s likely not an emergency. You may suspect a muscle strain or rib bruise if the pain occurs only with specific movements, such as reaching overhead or twisting.

Psychological issues may also cause chest pain. Panic disorders, depression, emotional stress, and anxiety may be to blame. Don’t just dismiss very real symptoms as being “in your head,” however. If you have sweating, weakness, crushing pain, and risk factors for disease, get checked out even if you have psychological issues.

At River Oaks ER, we want to evaluate, diagnose, and treat your chest pain to prevent long-term damage and rule out a life-threatening condition.