Woman holding her chest in pain

Back And Chest Pain – When To See A Doctor

When it comes to chest and back pain, it’s important to understand the differences and causes so you can find relief.


Why Does My Chest Hurt?


Chest and upper back pain are common complaints, but they can be caused by a variety of issues. Your pain may be due to heart disease, respiratory disease, musculoskeletal problems or even cancer. 


If you have chest or upper back pain that lasts for more than a few days or becomes intense or if you have other symptoms such as shortness of breath or coughing up blood then you should see your doctor for further evaluation.

Back pain.

Back pain is a common symptom of many different conditions. While back pain itself isn’t always serious, it can be a sign that something more serious is going on.


Stay alert for new or persistent symptoms such as:

  • Pain in any part of your body that doesn’t go away after several weeks or months (this could indicate an underlying condition).
  • Pain that gets worse over time (for example, if you have arthritis in one shoulder but over time notice that the pain has spread to both shoulders).
  • Pain that radiates down your arm or into your fingers (this could indicate nerve damage) 
  • New or unusual pains in your back (these can be a sign of tumors, infections, arthritis, and other conditions) Pain that wakes you up at night (this could mean you have a condition such as kidney stones).

Chest pain.

Chest pain can be a symptom of heart disease, but it’s also a common complaint for people who don’t have heart problems. If you’re experiencing chest pain that doesn’t feel like indigestion or acid reflux (GERD), your doctor will want to rule out other possible causes.

Anxiety and stress

Stress can cause muscle tension in the chest area, which might feel like mild or moderate pain.

Anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) are often associated with chronic chest-tightness or pressure that’s not related to physical activity or exercise–it may just come out of nowhere without any warning signs ahead of time.

Pain that lasts for more than two weeks or is accompanied by fever, chills and redness of the skin is not normal.

If you have muscle pain in your lower back after lifting something heavy or pushing yourself too hard at the gym, rest until feeling better.

Acid reflux

People who experience frequent episodes of acid reflux might develop inflammation around their esophagus over time; this condition is known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which can result in chronic heartburn.

GERD can also cause chest pain, especially when you lay down. People with this condition may experience intense discomfort in the upper part of their chests, which is often described as feeling like a heart attack or anxiety attack.

Doctor performing a spine exam on a male patient

Lung conditions.

Chest pain can be a sign of lung conditions like pleurisy or lung cancer.


In addition to back and chest pain, you may also experience fever, chills and shortness of breath as symptoms of pleurisy (an inflammation of the membranes that surround your lungs).


Pleurisy often occurs after an infection such as pneumonia–but it can also come on suddenly if you have another medical condition like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.


Another common cause for chest pains is lung injury from trauma such as car accidents or falls; broken ribs can also cause this type of injury.

Shortness of breath.

Shortness of breath can be a symptom of many different conditions. It can be caused by asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), congestive heart failure, pneumonia and many other conditions.


If you have shortness of breath that doesn’t go away with rest or medication and lasts for more than a few days, make an appointmente as soon as possible.

Persistent cough or fever.

Persistent cough is a common symptom, and it can be caused by many things. The most common cause of persistent cough is an upper respiratory infection, or URI. 


URIs are caused by viruses and are spread through droplets when someone sneezes or coughs. Symptoms include a runny nose, stuffy nose, fever and often a sore throat.


Another common cause of persistent cough is postnasal drip, which occurs when mucus from the nose drips down the back of your throat and causes irritation. This can make you cough more easily than usual.


If you have a persistent cough that’s accompanied by wheezing or shortness of breath, seek medical attention right away—you may have asthma or other lung diseases that require treatment from a doctor.

Doctor examining an x-ray image

Diagnosing the cause of chest pain and back pain.

If you’re experiencing chest pain, your doctor may perform one or more tests to determine the cause of your pain.

These tests include:

  • Blood tests. A blood test can help determine if an inflammation or infection is causing your symptoms.
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG). This test measures electrical activity in the heart and helps identify abnormal rhythms that may be contributing to symptoms of chest pain or discomfort.

For back pain, doctors often use imaging techniques such as X-rays and CT scans to rule out serious conditions such as cancer before recommending treatment options available at home clinics like ours.

Treatment for chest pain and back pain.

Chest pain and back pain are two of the most common medical conditions, with millions of Americans suffering from them each year.

Treatment options can range from over-the-counter medications to surgery, so it’s important to understand when to see a doctor for chest or back pain.

Back Pain

If you have back pain, there are several things you can do at home before seeking treatment from a doctor. The first thing you should do is rest, as staying active will only make your pain worse.

You should also try to avoid any activities that cause more discomfort than usual, such as bending over or lifting heavy objects. If your condition does not improve within a few days, call your doctor for advice on how to proceed.

Chest Pain

Chest pain is usually caused by heart problems or lung issues and may require immediate medical attention if it persists for more than five minutes at a time (or if it lasts longer than 30 seconds).

If you experience chest pain that lasts longer than five minutes but less than one hour (or between 30 seconds and 5 minutes), this could be an emergency situation requiring immediate attention.

A specialist will indicate what kinds of treatments would work best for you.

When to see a doctor.

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, it’s important that you see a doctor:


  • Back pain accompanied by chest pain or abdominal pain.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Persistent cough or fever.
  • Sweating and nausea with chest pain.


Diagnosing the cause of chest pain can be tricky. The pain may come from your heart, lungs or esophagus. It’s important to get a proper diagnosis so you can start treatment that will relieve your symptoms and prevent complications.

In conclusion.

While you shouldn’t ignore back and chest pain, neither should you panic. Back pain is an extremely common problem, experienced by over 50% of people in the United States. 


The vast majority of these cases are temporary, lasting less than three weeks. Also keep in mind that chest pain can be a sign of heart problems, which require immediate attention as they can be life-threatening. 


Ask your doctor to recommend self-help techniques and activities that will help relieve your back or chest pain and schedule an appointment if the symptoms don’t go away or if they get worse.