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Treating Chest Pain

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Chest pain is considered to be more of a symptom rather than an actual condition; however, depending on what’s actually causing it, there are many different ways that it can feel, and it can also be associated with other symptoms and signs. Of course, the worst-case scenario with any kind of chest pain is always a heart attack.

Chest pain is considered to be more of a symptom rather than an actual condition

Chest pain is considered to be more of a symptom rather than an actual condition

A heart attack is when a blood clot forms in the muscle of the heart, which can lead to damage. In more serious cases, a heart attack can cause death; however, there is also a very common misconception that a heart attack is the same thing as a cardiac arrest, which is when the heart simply stops beating.

The most common symptoms of a heart attack that are closely associated with chest pain are the following:

*Shortness of breath

Quick Note

The material posted on this page for Chest Pain is for learning purposes only. Chest pain can be a serious emergency. Consult a physician immediately if you suspect someone is having severe chest pain. To learn to recognize and manage cardiovascular emergencies that involve chest pain register for a first aid course with one of our training providers located throughout Canada.

How to Assess Chest Pain

Many doctors and paramedics use a standard method to help them assess chest pain, as well as all other types of pain, that come on without any reason at all. This method involves using the mnemonic “OPQRST”, which not only helps them to identify the particular type of chest pain that someone is suffering from, but also to identify what may be causing it.

Here are the different meanings behind this particular method.

*Onset: This involves determining exactly how the pain itself started, whether it was suddenly or if it developed as time went on. If someone suffers a heart attack, pain from this can occur suddenly, while pain from something such as a lung infection can be more gradual in nature.

*Provocation: This step involves determining what provokes the pain, such as if it gets worse when you take a deep breath, move around, or press on your chest. Pain from infections such as pneumonia can often hurt more whenever you do either of these things. On the other hand, pain in muscles can typically be tender to things such as touch, breathing, and movement. In terms of the heart, this type of pain is rather constant in nature and responds in no way to either breathing or movement.

*Quality: Determine what the pain itself actually feels like, regardless of whether it’s sharp or dull. Pain in the heart is most commonly described as being squeezing or pressured.

*Radiation: This is where it’s determined whether the pain goes to more than one area of the body or stays in only one particular area. With heart pain, this may or may not go anywhere other than the center of the chest; however, most people describe it as radiating to the neck, jaw, and/or the left arm. Additionally, it can also find its way to areas such as the back and the right arm.

*Severity: Think about how bad the pain is on a scale of at least 1 to 10. When it comes to the heart, there really is no minimum pain level involved. Typically, individuals suffering from this are asked to describe how bad the pain is in order to determine whether or not a particular treatment plan will make things better or worse.

*Time: Think about how long you’ve been dealing with the pain. The longer you’ve been dealing with the pain, the better chance you have of having suffered more permanent damage.


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