Blog Post

Chest Pain: Is It Ever Normal?

It sounds strange, but pain is good. It’s your body's built-in warning system that tells you when something’s wrong and needs your attention. 

This is especially true when it comes to chest pain. Ignore the warning signs of a heart problem, and the results could be devastating. 

Here, Dr. Fahmi Farah, our cardiac specialist at Bentley Heart in Fort Worth, Texas, helps you understand chest pain and the steps you should take if you start to feel symptoms.

Defining chest pain

Chest pain is pain that occurs in any area of your chest. You may also notice that you feel pain in your arms, neck, and jaw. Chest pain is different in everyone and depends on what’s causing it. Typically, chest pain ranges from a sharp, shooting pain to a dull, lingering ache. Sometimes, it can feel as though your chest is being crushed or squeezed. Symptoms can last anywhere from a few minutes or hours to six months or longer. 

The heart of the problem

There’s no getting around it — cardiac chest pain can be life-threatening. Cardiac-related chest pain can be a symptom of any number of heart and vascular problems, including:

  • Heart attack
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Pericarditis
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
  • Aortic dissection
  • Aortic aneurysm
  • Mitral valve prolapse

If your chest pain is the result of a heart or vascular problem, you feel it on the left side of your chest.

When it’s not your heart

If your mind instantly thinks “heart attack” at the first pang of chest pain, you’re not alone. Most assume the worst when a strange pain sets in. You should know that heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems aren’t the only cause of chest pain. 

Chest pain can stem from a number of gastrointestinal issues, including ulcers and acid reflux, and lung issues, including pneumonia and asthma. Even a panic attack can set off shooting pain akin to a heart attack. 

But because chest pain can be a symptom of so many problems ranging from minor to potentially fatal, we say that no chest pain should ever be ignored.

When it’s time to get help

Chest pain is never normal, and you should always seek medical attention if you notice symptoms. Call 911 and get emergency medical attention if your chest pain is accompanied by these telltale heart attack symptoms:

  • Sweating 
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Light-headedness or fainting
  • Rapid, irregular heartbeat
  • Pain in your back, jaw, neck, abdomen, arm, or shoulder

Even if you don’t think your chest pain is severe or if it comes and goes, you should still see our experts as soon as possible to rule out potentially serious problems. 

Try to take note of what you’re doing when your chest pain happens. Being able to describe as many details about the nature of your chest pain can help us reach an accurate conclusion quickly. 

Treating and preventing chest pain

Treating chest pain begins with discovering the underlying causes. We do that by conducting a series of tests and evaluations, including electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG), blood tests, chest X-ray, and/or CT scans. 

Most often, we treat cardiac chest pain with prescription medication. Some of the medications we use to treat common causes of chest pain are artery relaxers, aspirin, and blood thinners.

In severe or dangerous cases of chest pain, surgery may be the best course of action. 

In addition to treating your chest pain, we also help you take steps toward avoiding complications in the future. You can significantly reduce your risk for heart and vascular problems by:

  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Managing other health conditions, such as high blood pressure
  • Exercising often
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Limiting alcohol consumption
  • Quitting smoking

Concerned about chest pain? Curious about your risk for heart problems? Don’t leave your heart health up to chance. Call our friendly staff at 817-720-5185 or use our online booking tool to schedule an appointment with our expert Dr. Farah at Bentley Heart today.