Chest pain associated with a heart attack (myocardial infarction) is often described as tightness, pressure, squeezing or crushing chest pain. It is usually central, located just behind the breastbone (retrosternal chest pain, breastbone pain) on the anterior surface of the chest. In a patient at a high risk of a heart attack, pain of this nature may be sufficient cause to seek emergency medical attention even without other signs and symptoms present. Chest pain alone, however, is not necessarily an indication of a heart attack without the presence of other clinical features.
Heart Attack Chest Pain
The character of chest paid due to heart attack can vary. While it is usually accepted as being a severe pain, it can at times present just as a mild discomfort. At other times it may just be a burning chest pain, similar to heartburn caused by acid reflux. Understanding the nature of chest pain due to a heart attack is therefore imperative for early diagnosis and quick medical attention.
Heart attack chest pain :
- Arises spontaneously or triggered by emotion or exercise.
- Not relieved by rest or the use of nitrates.
- Accompanied by :
- Shortness of breath
- Dizziness and/or fainting spells
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Radiates to arm, neck, jaw or upper abdomen (epigastrium)
- Anxiety – impending sense of doom
- Abnormal breathing sounds – wheezing
One or more of these symptoms associated with chest pain should be sufficient reason to seek medical attention.
Other Common Causes and Features
- Burning chest pain relieved by antacids and accompanied by nausea and regurgitation may be due to acid reflux.
- Chest pain associated with pain upon deep breathing (particularly inhalation) and tenderness may be due to causes discussed under chest wall pain.
- Chest pain with coughing, particularly a productive cough, fever and prior history of upper respiratory symptoms like a runny nose and sneezing and sore throat may be due to lower respiratory infections like bronchitis or pneumonia.
Also refer to :
Heart Attack Arm Pain
Chest pain associated with a heart attack tends to radiate to the arm, particularly the left arm, sometimes both arms or rarely to the right arm alone. The pain in these cases RADIATE meaning that it originates in the center of the chest and extends all the way to the arm.
Refer to Causes of Arm Pain for causative factors left or right arm pain.
Heart Attack Jaw Pain
Chest pain due to a heart attack may radiate to the jaw, usually lower jaw (mandible) rather than the upper jaw (maxilla). Often the pain is isolated to the TMJ (temporomandibular joint) just in front of the ear or the angle of the mandible. When the teeth are involved, the pain may be felt on both the upper and lower jaw extending all the way to the incisors at the front. Neck pain may also be reported.
Article reviewed by Dr. Greg. Last updated on January 5, 2011