First Time User? Enroll now.
COVID-19: Vaccine information, visitor restrictions, testing, and additional resources
Home > Health Library > Chest Problems
Chest discomfort or pain may be a key warning symptom of a heart attack. Heart attack symptoms may include:
Chest discomfort or pain that comes on or gets worse with exercise, stress, or eating a large meal and goes away with rest may also be a heart disease symptom called angina.
If you have any of these symptoms of a heart attack, call 911 or other emergency services now. After you call 911, the operator may tell you to chew 1 adult-strength or 2 to 4 low-dose aspirin. Wait for an ambulance. Do not try to drive yourself. Since most of the damage to the heart muscle during a heart attack occurs in the first 6 hours, emergency treatment may prevent damage to the heart muscle and death. For men and women, the most common symptom is chest pain or pressure. Women are somewhat more likely than men to have other symptoms like shortness of breath, nausea, and back or jaw pain.
Most people fear that chest pain always means that something is wrong with the heart. This isn't the case. Chest discomfort or pain, especially in people who are younger than age 40, can have many causes.
Other more serious problems that can cause chest pain include:
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
Pain in adults and older children
Severe trouble breathing means:
Moderate trouble breathing means:
Mild trouble breathing means:
Shock is a life-threatening condition that may quickly occur after a sudden illness or injury.
Adults and older children often have several symptoms of shock. These include:
Shock is a life-threatening condition that may occur quickly after a sudden illness or injury.
Babies and young children often have several symptoms of shock. These include:
Symptoms of a heart attack may include:
For men and women, the most common symptom is chest pain or pressure. But women are somewhat more likely than men to have other symptoms, like shortness of breath, nausea, and back or jaw pain.
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical care.
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Based on your answers, you need emergency care.
Call 911 or other emergency services now.
Sometimes people don't want to call 911. They may think that their symptoms aren't serious or that they can just get someone else to drive them. Or they might be concerned about the cost. But based on your answers, the safest and quickest way for you to get the care you need is to call 911 for medical transport to the hospital.
After you call 911, the operator may tell you to chew 1 adult-strength (325 mg) or 2 to 4 low-dose (81 mg) aspirin. Wait for an ambulance. Do not try to drive yourself.
Home treatment is not appropriate for chest pain if the pain occurs with symptoms of a heart attack. If you think a heart attack might be the cause of your symptoms, call 911 or other emergency services now. After you call 911, the operator may tell you to chew 1 adult-strength or 2 to 4 low-dose aspirin. Wait for an ambulance. Do not try to drive yourself.
If you have stable angina, you can probably predict when your symptoms will happen. You probably know what things cause your angina. If you and your doctor have made a home treatment plan, follow that plan. If you are having angina symptoms more often than usual or if they are different or worse than usual, call your doctor right away. If you have angina symptoms that don't go away with rest or aren't getting better within 5 minutes after you take a dose of nitroglycerin, call 911 or other emergency services now.
Home treatment for mild chest pain depends on the cause of the pain. Minor chest pain often improves with home treatment. A visit to your doctor may not be needed. Here are some ways to treat chest wall pain caused by strained muscles or ligaments or a fractured rib at home.
Rest and protect an injured or sore area. Stop, change, or take a break from any activity that may be causing your pain or soreness.
Cold will reduce pain and swelling. Apply an ice or cold pack right away to prevent or have less swelling. Apply the ice or cold pack for 10 to 20 minutes, 3 or more times a day. After 48 to 72 hours, if swelling is gone, apply warmth to the area that hurts.
Don't wrap or tape your ribs for support. It could cause you to take smaller breaths, which could increase your risk for pneumonia or a partial lung collapse (atelectasis).
Medicated creams that you put on the skin (topical) may soothe sore muscles.
Gentle stretching and massage may help you get better faster. Stretch slowly to the point just before discomfort starts. Then hold the stretch for 30 to 60 seconds. Do this 3 or 4 times a day. It's even more helpful after the use of heat.
As your pain gets better, slowly return to your normal activities. Any increased pain may mean that you need to rest a while longer.
Call a doctor if any of the following occur during self-care at home:
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared for your appointment.
Current as of:
January 10, 2022
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineE. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Current as of: January 10, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2022 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.