Chest Pain: Is it a Heart Attack or Your Spine?

chest pain

What are the Symptoms of a Heart Attack?

Some heart attacks are sudden and intense — the "movie heart attack," where no one doubts what's happening. But most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Often people affected aren't sure what's wrong and wait too long before getting help. Here are signs that can mean a heart attack is happening: 

  • Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the centre of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.   
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one (commonly left) or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.  
  • Shortness of breath. May occur with or without chest discomfort.    
  • Other signs: These may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

If you think you or someone with you is having a heart attack, call 000 immediately!

Don’t wait longer than a few minutes (no more than five) before calling for help. Call 000 ... Get to a hospital urgently.

What are the Symptoms of Chest Pain originating from your Spine?

Your spine is a very common cause of chest pain, which can be fixed by treatment of your thoracic spine and rib cage. However, chest pain originating from your spine won't kill you, but a heart attack can!

  • Spinal Discs can refer pain through your chest wall like a knitting needle. Coughing or Sneezing hurts.
  • Spinal Facet Joints refer pain around your rib cage. Trunk movements will aggravate or ease your pain.
  • Rib Joints send pain down and around your rib cage. Pain can be increased with coughing, deep breathing and trunk or shoulder movements.
  • Back Muscles will generally be more painful in sustained postures eg sitting at a computer. These are commonly felt between your shoulder blades and can be relieved by massage.\

What to Do Next?

As mentioned earlier, if you suspect a heart attack, call 000 immediately and get to hospital straight away. 

If your symptoms are not heart attack related, consult your physiotherapist for an assessment of your spinal and chest joints and muscles. Most muscular or joint pain will be relieved after your very first consultation.

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Last updated 17-Mar-2019 12:34 PM

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