Chest Pain You Can Live With

If you feel an electric shock zinging like a lightning bolt across your chest — gone as quickly as it came — you’re not alone, and it’s unlikely that you will have to dial 911.

Momentary chest discomfort does not necessarily signal a heart attack. Normally, people experience fleeting aches and pains in the chest area, including pinpoint discomfort that reacts to positional changes in breathing, chest discomfort that gets better with exercise, and the electric shock syndrome.

Those sensations are fairly typical and are not an immediate cause for alarm, says Dr. Curtis Rimmerman, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic. While Rimmerman emphasizes that symptoms of a heart attack or angina vary significantly depending on the individual, when people are having a heart attack, “They typically can’t find a position that relieves the discomfort. Nor do they find relief by ingesting liquids, popping antacids, or taking deep breaths. When heart discomfort or pain does develop, it’s unrelenting.”

If you’re experiencing pain, pressure, or discomfort in the center of the chest, in the arms, back, jaw, neck, or stomach, combined with pronounced shortness of breath, cold sweat, nausea, or fatigue or lightheadedness that lasts for more than five minutes, you need to be seen by a medical professional immediately.

When in doubt, Rimmerman suggests, always err on the side of caution and visit a doctor or emergency room.

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