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Chest Pain - Home Treatment

Home treatment is not appropriate for chest pain if the pain occurs with symptoms of a heart attack. If you think a heart attack might be the cause of your symptoms, call911or other emergency services immediately. After you call 911, the operator may tell you to chew 1 adult-strength or 2 to 4 low-dose aspirin. Wait for an ambulance. Do not try to drive yourself.

Home treatment for people who have been diagnosed with chest pain (angina)

Most people who have been diagnosed with angina have a pattern to their angina attacks that they can recognize. If you and your doctor have made a home treatment plan for your angina attacks, follow that plan. If the pain gets worse or does not go away or if you are unsure how to use your plan, call911or other emergency services immediately.

You may be able to control how much your angina bothers you by making changes in your lifestyle. You may find it helpful to:

  • Avoid strenuous activities that bring on angina.
  • Eat balanced, nutritious meals. Try to limit the amount of fats and fatty foods you eat.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Limit the amount of alcohol you drink. Don't drink more than 2 alcoholic drinks a day if you are a man, or 1 alcoholic drink a day if you are a woman.
  • Do not smoke or use other tobacco products. For more information, see the topic Quitting Smoking.
  • Reduce stress. For more information, see the topic Stress Management.
  • Control your blood pressure with diet and medicine. For more information, see the topic High Blood Pressure.
  • Avoid extremely cold or hot environments.
  • Take all medicines, such as nitroglycerin, as instructed by your doctor.
  • Follow the exercise or activity program you and your doctor developed.

If you do not need 911 emergency medical treatment for your chest pain or angina, take your pulse before reporting your symptoms to your doctor. Your heart rate and rhythm at the time of your chest pain may help your doctor evaluate your symptoms.

Home treatment for minor pain in the chest

Home treatment for minor chest pain depends on the cause of the pain. Minor chest pain often improves with home treatment. A visit to your doctor may not be needed.

Chest wall pain

For chest wall pain caused by strained muscles or ligaments or a fractured rib:

  • Rest. Rest and protect an injured or sore area. Stop, change, or take a break from any activity that may be causing your pain or soreness.
  • Ice. Cold will reduce pain and swelling. Apply an ice or cold pack immediately to prevent or minimize swelling. Apply the ice or cold pack for 10 to 20 minutes, 3 or more times a day. After 48 to 72 hours, if swelling is gone, apply warmth to the area that hurts.
  • Do not wrap or tape your ribs for support. This may cause you to take smaller breaths, which could increase your risk for developing pneumonia or partial lung collapse (atelectasis).
  • Medicated creams that you put on the skin (topical) may soothe sore muscles.
  • Gentle stretching and massage may help you get better faster. Stretch slowly to the point just before discomfort begins, then hold the stretch for 30 to 60 seconds. Do this 3 to 4 times a day. It is really helpful after the use of heat.
  • As your pain gets better, slowly return to your normal activities. Any increased pain may mean that you need to rest a while longer.
Medicine you can buy without a prescription
Try a nonprescription medicine to help treat your fever or pain:

Talk to your child's doctor before switching back and forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.

Safety tips
Be sure to follow these safety tips when you use a nonprescription medicine:
  • Carefully read and follow all directions on the medicine bottle and box.
  • Do not take more than the recommended dose.
  • Do not take a medicine if you have had an allergic reaction to it in the past.
  • If you have been told to avoid a medicine, call your doctor before you take it.
  • If you are or could be pregnant, do not take any medicine other than acetaminophen unless your doctor has told you to.
  • Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than age 20 unless your doctor tells you to.

If you have other symptoms along with your minor chest pain, see the Related Information section for topics that relate to your other symptoms.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: September 25, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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