Cardiac Pain vs. Chest Pain: What's the Difference?

chest painChest pain is pretty high up on the list of symptoms you absolutely shouldn't ignore, but that doesn't mean all chest pain is fatal or indicative of a heart attack. Currently, almost 70% of emergency department visits from patients with insurance coverage are for non-emergency conditions. So unless you know how to tell the difference between cardiac-related pain and other chest pain, you could be paying ER fees for no good reason. Here's a quick guide to help you understand what to do about chest pain and how it will feel in an emergency situation.

How will cardiac pain feel?
Unlike normal pain in the chest, cardiac-related pain will feel like there is pressure on the body. The pain has also been described as constricting, burning, or squeezing sensations. This is the kind of pain that can't be pointed to like lacerations or even stomach pain can be. That is in large part due to the fact that this pain tends to radiate to other parts of the body, such as the arms, throat, and even to the jaw in some cases.

How long does cardiac pain typically last?
Cardiac pain will usually last for as long as exertion does. For example, if someone is carrying a heavy object and starts to feel pain in their chest, that pain will subside when physical activity stops. So when someone feels better immediately after sitting down or taking a break, it could be a warning sign of cardiac issues. What precedes cardiac pain?

As previously stated, cardiac pain usually lasts for as long as physical exertion does. That means the onset of this pain is typically any kind of physical activity, especially in the upper body. Something as simple as carrying a heavy bag or even swinging the arms vigorously could lead to pain.

How do I know if I'm not suffering from a heart attack?
Fortunately, not every pain in the chest is fatal. Symptoms such as momentary chest discomfort, pinpoint chest discomfort, and chest discomfort that improves with physical activity are unlikely to signal a heart attack. If the pain can be pinpointed in a specific area, it's likely a non-emergency situation.

If you or someone you know experiences any of the symptoms related to cardiac pain, don't hesitate to visit urgent care or seek out emergency services. But make sure you take the time to understand the difference between these two different types of pain.