Chest pain: how to distinguish heart pain from other pains

Chest pain: how to distinguish heart pain from other pains

Pain is a kind of signal from the body that indicates a problem. In the chest there are several organs and each can be a source of pain. When a person has chest pain, this may be due to osteochondrosis, a manifestation of inflammation in the lungs, a disease of the esophagus, but it could be heart pain.

Usually, any pain leads to a decrease in the quality of life, but not every pain is life threatening. Some types of pain speak of a serious problem in the body. And if it is not correct to respond to this pain, then not only the quality of life can suffer, but it will also cause great harm to one’s own health, and even death is possible. One of these types of pain is heart pain.

Heart pain (called angina pectoris or “angina pectoris” in medicine) occurs when there is insufficient oxygen supply to the heart muscle. Most often this is due to the narrowing of the lumen of the vessel that feeds a particular area of ​​the heart muscle. In order to diagnose angina, in most cases, it is enough how the patient describes his pain.

What are signs of heart pain?

Chest pain: how to distinguish heart pain from other pains
Photo:: Kaspars Grinvalds /

First, it’s localization. Most often it is the pain behind the sternum or in the left half of the chest. The pain can be given in the left arm, between the shoulder blades or in the lower jaw. Secondly, the characteristic of pain . In the classic version – it is pressing, compressive, baking or dagger pain.

The next important point is that angina often has trigger factors – physical or emotional stress. This means that there is no pain at rest, but they appear during physical or emotional stress. With critical narrowing of the vessel that feeds the heart muscle, angina pectoris can appear with minimal load at rest and even at night.

In assessing the origin of chest pain, the time factor is always taken into account. True heartache is not of a long-term nature, the count goes on for minutes. In other words, the heart cannot “whine, pull, prick” for several hours, days, or day after day. Such pains are often a manifestation of the pathology of the musculoskeletal system. However, true heart pain lasting more than 20 minutes indicates a possible development of a terrible complication – myocardial infarction.

It is worth paying attention to under what circumstances the pain passes. Angina stops on its own within about a few minutes, for example, if the patient stops or calms down. Some patients are helped by nitroglycerin, which reduces or completely stops angina pectoris pain for 1-2 minutes. If a person has a myocardial infarction, then chest pain will not stop and after taking nitroglycerin will not go away, in this case, need emergency help.

When stenocardia occurs, a temporary blood flow is impaired in the coronary artery affected by atherosclerotic plaque. Receiving nitroglycerin allows you to expand the lumen of the vessel, improve blood flow and thus the pain goes away, which leads to regression of pain. With a heart attack, the narrowing of the lumen is so pronounced that it leads to irreversible damage to the heart muscle. In this situation, the pain has a different cause and the effect of nitroglycerin will not give effect.

In addition to the classic characteristics, angina pectoris can wear so-called atypical forms, even manifesting in the form of shortness of breath or abdominal pain.

Thus, we see that heart pain on the one hand in most cases can be easily recognized, but on the other hand, it is not always so easily recognizable. That is why it is important if you have pain in the chest, you feel a lack of air, you should immediately consult with your doctor.

What can a doctor do when a patient comes to him with chest pains?

First of all, the doctor will carefully ask the patient to tell about all the symptoms. If, as a result of a survey with a doctor, the impression is that the pain may be angina pectoris, then it is necessary to carry out a diagnosis in order to confirm the patient’s complaints.

Chest pain: how to distinguish heart pain from other pains
Photo: Image Point Fr /

What tests are needed to confirm or deny the diagnosis?

If we are talking about heart disease, an electrocardiogram (ECG) of rest is an important study. In many diseases, the ECG changes, but in the presence of angina in a patient at rest without pain, the ECG may be completely normal. This means that the ECG data will be within the normal range, and the patient will feel angina. Thus, in case of suspected angina, one cannot restrict oneself to an ECG of rest.

An important stage of the survey in determining the genesis of chest pain is a stress test. The most commonly used combination is a load (lane or bicycle) in combination with ECG recording. Changes in the ECG during exercise and complaints from the patient with a high degree of probability allow us to judge the presence or absence of angina. If there are concomitant complaints, for example, interruptions in the work of the heart, the doctor may order a daily ECG monitoring. It will allow you to fix the rhythm disturbances, if any. And in some cases, cardiac arrhythmias can indicate a problem in the blood supply to the heart muscle.

In addition, cardiovascular risk factors are assessed: age, patient gender, heredity, blood pressure, the presence of certain diseases, as well as a number of blood parameters, which are associated with an increased risk of angina (blood lipids, glucose, creatinine) .

There are manifestations typical of cardiac pain, but the disease can also be atypical. That is why doctors do not recommend self-medicating, but trust in qualified specialists. If you have chest pains that you have not experienced before, make an appointment and discuss them with your doctor. It is possible that already at the initial consultation, the doctor will tell you that there is no threat from the heart. But it may well require a more thorough examination. It is important to consult a doctor in time. And the doctor will evaluate the symptoms, risks, conduct the necessary examinations and, if necessary, develop a treatment plan or a plan of preventive measures with the patient so that the patient lives as long as possible and the quality of life is not affected.

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