Ultimately, you don’t want to take a chance when it comes to this symptom. Still, it may be helpful to know a bit more about the potential causes of chest pain and when it may be appropriate to go to a walk-in urgent care center rather than an emergency room.
When to go to the ER for chest pain:
Should you experience a crushing or severe pressure or pain in the chest (particularly if it moves into the left shoulder, arm, or neck), you should absolutely go to the emergency room. If your chest pain is accompanied by sweating, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, or fatigue, this may indicate cardiac chest pain. It’s much better to err on the side of caution and go to the emergency room. To that end, you should not drive yourself to the hospital. Those who experience acute chest pain should chew two to four baby aspirin (or one adult aspirin) as a precaution. Even if it turns out that the pain isn’t attributed to a coronary issue, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
When to go to 24 hour urgent care locations for chest pain:
In cases of non-cardiac chest pain, it may behoove you to go to one of the 24 hour urgent care locations in your area. Because 60% of all urgent care centers have less than a 15 minute wait time, it’s likely that you can get your urgent medical needs met in a shorter period of time than you might in a hospital.
Of course, it can be difficult to know whether your chest pain is life-threatening or not, which is why you should seek medical attention right away regardless of whether you have a heart problem. There are actually many causes of chest pain that have nothing to do with the heart. Esophageal spasms, gastrointestinal disorders (like heartburn or acid reflux), lung diseases, rib joint inflammation, panic attacks, and countless other conditions can cause pain in your chest. Your urgent care physician will take note of your symptoms and run tests if necessary to provide you with a diagnosis.
Generally speaking, if your chest pain is new, has changed (i.e., goes away and comes back), or is accompanied by other worrisome symptoms, it’s best to go straight to the emergency room. However, if you’ve been treated for chest pain conditions in the past and don’t experience some of those serious symptoms listed, you may find that urgent care centers can provide you with the treatment you need. In many cases, it’s best to visit an urgent care center located within a hospital; that way, you’ll have access to fast treatment options and won’t have to travel far if it turns out you need to go to the other facility.