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CHEST PAIN

What is Chest Pain?

Chest pain is pain felt in the chest region which can come from a variety of different structures within the chest such as heart, lungs, airways, oesophagus, ribs, breathing (respiratory) muscles and nerves. It is important to determine the correct part of the body that the pain is coming from.

What does chest pain feel like?

Chest pain may feel different depending on the associated area that it is coming from. It can be rapid or sudden onset, sharp, dull, stabbing, constant, pressure, tightness, squeezing, heaviness, burning, a tearing or ripping sensation, or generalised non-specific pain. Symptoms may also include breathlessness, cough, fever, high breathing rate, high heart rate, low blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, dizziness or reflux.

What causes chest pain?

Chest pain can be caused by a variety of problems in which below will explain further into the structure of the chest and where the pain may be coming from:

Lung

  • Infection, trauma or cancer of the lining around the lung (pleurisy)
  • Blood clot, caused by long-distance travel or immobilisation
  • Collapsed or punctured lung, caused by lung disease or trauma
  • Tumour

Heart

  • Heart attack or angina, caused by heart disease
  • Infection, inflammation, trauma or tumour of the sac around the heart (pericarditis)

Big blood vessels

  • Aortic aneurysm, caused by trauma, atherosclerosis or genetic disorder of the connective tissue (Marfan syndrome)

Oesophagus

  • Reflux, trauma, tumour or vomiting

Musculoskeletal

  • Ribs—fracture, joint or spine problem
  • Muscles—trauma or unaccustomed exercise
  • Nerve pain (neuralgia)—shingles, thoracic spine problem or tumour
  • Arthritis or other inflammatory conditions

How do I know if I have chest pain?

Chest pain is a pain or discomfort felt in the chest region that is not normal for you. You must try and distinguish the difference between chest pain arising from a heart attack compared to other problems.

How do I know if I am suffering a heart attack?

The Heart Foundation of Australia recommends that if you experience the warning signs such pain, pressure, heaviness or tightness in the chest, neck, jaw, arms, shoulders, abdomen, or back as chest pains of a heart attack for 10 minutes and, if the symptoms are severe or get worse, you must call 0-0-0 immediately for an ambulance. If you experience these signs, you should:

  1. Stop and rest
  2. Tell someone about our symptoms and, if you take angina medicine, you should take a dose
  3. If your symptoms are severe, getting worse or have lasted more than 10 minutes you should call 0-0-0.

For any more information please refer to the Heart Foundation Website. 

How can Exercise Physiologist help with chest pain?

An Exercise Physiologist can assist with diseases that are associated with chest pain. Exercise Physiology is important with musculoskeletal chest pain and chest pain secondary to chronic lung disease or heart disease as they are able to give advice with treatment plans, exercise and rehabilitation.

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