Chest pain can be many different types; some describe it as sharp, dull, crushing or even burning. There are many different causes of chest pain also, and the most serious ones can be due to a life-threatening heart or lung condition. Anyone with chest pain should see a doctor immediately since it can be difficult to know what is causing it without professional diagnosis.
Chest Pain: What You Need to Know
At The University of Vermont Medical Center, our internationally recognized cardiac experts are specially trained to treat all types of chest pain. We lead the nation in the rapid care of severe heart attack - providing the fastest possible access to life-saving treatment when every second counts. Our physicians and other support staff work together as a team, providing advanced care.
As the region's advanced heart care program, we offer a well-coordinated system of care. Community hospitals throughout Vermont and northern New York work in collaboration with cardiac specialists at The UVM Medical Center. Together, we provide a fast, accurate response and cutting-edge treatments for patients with cardiac-related chest pain.
Experienced, Trusted Expertise
We have a strong tradition of excellence in cardiac care, going back more than 50 years, and are dedicated to improving the health of people throughout the region. As a university hospital and health system, our team provides the most advanced care backed by research: we make all diagnostic and treatment recommendations based on the latest thinking in the field. Through patient education, we answer all your questions and help you become as informed as possible throughout your care.
What is Chest Pain?
Most people fear that chest pain means that something is wrong with the heart. This is not always the case. Chest discomfort or pain, especially in people who are younger than age 40, can have many causes, such as:
Pain in the muscles or bones of the chest often occurs when you increase your activities or add exercise to your schedule. This is sometimes called chest wall pain.
Burning chest pain that occurs when you cough may be caused by an upper respiratory infection caused by a virus.
Burning chest or rib pain, especially just before a rash appears, may be caused by shingles.
An injury such as a broken rib or bruised lung can be quite painful, especially when you cough or try to take a deep breath.
Swelling (inflammation) of the thin layers of tissue (pleura) covering the lungs and the chest wall may occur. This is called pleurisy.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can cause pain just below the breastbone.
Other, more serious problems that can cause chest pain include:
A collapsed lung (pneumothorax), which usually causes a sharp, stabbing chest pain and occurs with shortness of breath.
A blood clot in the lung (pulmonary embolism), which usually causes deep chest pain with the rapid development of extreme shortness of breath.
Lung cancer, which may cause chest pain, especially if the cancer cells spread to involve the ribs.
Diseases of the spine, which can cause chest pain if the nerves in the spine are "pinched."
Chest Pain Symptoms
Chest pain is a common condition affecting millions of people. There are many different types of chest pain as well as causes.
If you are having a heart attack, you may experience an uncomfortable chest pressure or heaviness. Some people feel this as a crushing pain. These symptoms last more than a few minutes.
They may be accompanied by other symptoms such as:
shortness of breath
Repeated episodes of chest pain that feels like a pressure or tightness in the chest may be angina - a condition caused by restricted blood flow to the heart. The tightness usually occurs due to physical or emotional stress and goes away shortly after the stressful activity ends.
Non-Cardiac Chest Pain
Chest pain can also be caused by non-cardiac related symptoms ranging from sore muscles to heartburn to gallbladder problems.
Seek Help as Soon as Possible
Whether your pain is a mild, occasional problem or a sudden attack, it's important to seek help as soon as possible.
Chest Pain Diagnosis and Treatment
Cardiologists and heart surgeons at The UVM Medical Center are available and on call for emergencies 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. These experts work closely with emergency medicine physicians to thoroughly assess your problem and make a diagnosis.
Patients with chest pain are often referred to our team of experienced cardiologists as outpatients. The UVM Medical Center offers quick access to these specialists at our conveniently located outpatient facility in South Burlington. Your cardiologist will work with you to identify the cause of your chest pain and to develop a treatment plan that is right for you.
Learn more about chest pain treatment.
Find a doctor or specialist at The UVM Medical Center or call 802-847-4600.