Monday, April 15, 2024

Arm Pain And Heart Attacks

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Would You Recognise A Gradual

How Does Arm Pain Feel In A Heart Attack?

We think of an attack as a big bang, but the symptoms can build over hours or days and even doctors can misinterpret them

In spring 2018, Tim Walker was working on a PhD in microbiology. Over the course of a week, he started feeling a little breathless during his morning commutes to University College London and had what felt like muscle aches around his upper back and shoulders. He put the symptoms down to a nasty virus. I was 31, he says. Why on earth would I suspect that I was having a heart attack?

As the days passed, his symptoms grew more pronounced. Eventually, he woke on a Saturday morning to the most intense pain Ive ever experienced an otherworldly, constant stabbing pressure in the collarbone area, neck and jaw, on both sides. He started coughing and vomiting, but there were no chest pains. Im not a religious man, but I remember praying at one point. After no more than 10 minutes, the symptoms went away, just as suddenly as they had appeared. He assumed it was a really nasty bug. Later, he became feverish and decided to take a few days off uni to get my strength back.

While Walkers age was an additional red herring , the slow onset of these easily misinterpreted symptoms is surprisingly common yet little known. A recent US study published in the European Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing found that, while 57% of patients reported an abrupt symptom onset, the other 43% experienced gradual symptom onset.

Can I Get Help For Chronic Heart Problems During Covid

Yes. The pandemic is not affecting the care of anyone who has a chronic or urgent heart or vascular problem, Lowenstein says. Were continuing to see new patients and established patients, and were continuing to carry out procedures on patients. If you need urgent care, you and your family should know that we can, and we will, take care of you.

Our heart catheterization lab is open for business, and if you have a heart attack, or any severe, acute coronary problems, were performing cardiac catheterizations. Our electrophysiology lab is open for business. And if you have a heart with abnormal rhythms, well put in a pacemaker or a defibrillator if you need it.

What Not To Do

If you feel heart attack symptoms:

  • Donât delay getting help.Women generally wait longer than men before going to the emergency room, says Rita F. Redberg, MD, MSc, FACC, director of Womens Cardiovascular Services for the UCSF Division of Cardiology in San Francisco. Even if you think your symptoms arenât that bad or will pass, the stakes are too high.
  • Dont drive yourself to the hospital. You need an ambulance. If you drive, you could have a wreck on the way and possibly hurt yourself or someone else.
  • Donât have a friend or relative drive you, either. You may not get there fast enough.
  • Donât dismiss what you feel.Dont worry about feeling silly if youre wrong, Goldberg says. You have to get it checked out right away.

People dont want to spend hours in an emergency room if it isnt a heart attack, Bairey Merz says. But women are actually good at deciding what is typical for themselves and when to seek health care.

Nieca Goldberg, MD, medical director, Joan H. Tisch Center for Womenâs Health, NYU Langone Medical Center, New York.

C. Noel Bairey Merz, MD, FACC, FAHA, director, Barbra Streisand Womens Heart Center director, Preventive Cardiac Center professor of medicine, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles.

Rita F. Redberg, MD, MSc, FACC, director, Womens Cardiovascular Services, UCSF division of cardiology professor of medicine, UCSF School of Medicine, San Francisco editor, JAMA Internal Medicine.

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What You Should Do If Arm Pain Occurs

Remember that not all arm pain is related to the heart the cause could be localized in the arm itself with no connection to any other part of the body. However, in the following circumstances medical help should immediately be summoned:

  • If the arm pain worsens over a few minutes, even though the arm is being rested.
  • If there is any discomfort in the chest such as feelings of pressure, tightness, burning, fullness or a pain the gradually increases in intensity.
  • Intermittent discomfort the pain in the chest comes and goes.
  • Shortness of breath or other difficulty in breathing.
  • Signs or symptoms usually associated with indigestion.
  • Sudden onset of cold sweats
  • A feeling of flushing blood rushing abnormally to one part of the body
  • Lightheadedness
  • Vomiting or nausea

No one wants to be a hypochondriac and after a certain age, a few aches and pains, especially in the limbs, are normal. It is difficult to know if pain in the arm is caused by stress or injury to the limb or if it is associated with a heart problem. What must be remembered is that arm pain could be the first sign of a heart attack and reacting to this and getting medical help immediately could mean the difference between life and death.

What Are Heart Attack Symptoms

Does A Numb Left Arm Mean A Heart Attack?

Some heart attacks come on gradually, with mild symptoms that get worse over time. Others happen suddenly, with more intense discomfort.

If you are having these symptoms, call 911:

  • Tightness, a squeezing sensation, pain or pressure in the chest that doesnt go away after a few minutes, or stops and then returns
  • Pain or discomfort in your arms, neck, jaw, back or stomach
  • Shortness of breath

Do not drive yourself to the emergency department: Call 911 or have someone drive you.

Even if youre not sure youre having a heart issue, its better to be safe than sorry. Call 911 or get to a hospital, where doctors can examine and treat you promptly.

Read Also: What Is The Medical Term Of Heart Attack

Beyond Chest Pain: Key Facts On Heart Attacks

Early heart attack symptoms dont always involve the chest.

Although chest pain is a classic symptom, other signs can be subtler. There may be discomfort you wouldnt define as pain and it may be felt in other places, like the inner arm often, but not always, the left arm or in the jaw or teeth. It may get worse with activity and improve with rest. It may come and go, increasing a bit each time it comes. It may feel like indigestion or the flu. You may feel extra tired, short of breath or sweaty. Or you may feel anxious, like something is wrong. And these signs can occur, hours, days, even weeks before the heart attack. Symptoms differ for men and women.Men tend to have their blockages in their main arteries and feel the classic symptoms of chest pressure, squeezing or heartburn. For over 70 percent of women who have heart attacks, the first symptom is unusual fatigue, shortness of breath, sleep disturbance, a feeling of anxiety or indigestion. Brittany Kickel, RN, MSN, Chest Pain Coordinator, cautions that symptoms can vary. One 53-year-old man recently came in with nausea and unusual fatigue. We discovered his main left artery was 80 percent blocked. Another recent patient was a 42-year-old woman whod been ignoring pain in her right arm because she thought only left arm pain was a symptom. If you suspect a heart attack, what should you do?Its best to call 911, rather than drive or get a ride to the hospital. There are two big reasons for this:

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Does Left Arm Pain Mean I Am Having A Heart Attack

You suddenly feel pain radiating down your left arm. Could this be a heart attack?

The answer is yes, particularly if the pain comes on suddenly and is severe or if it is accompanied by chest pain or pressure in the chest. Of course, not all left arm pain signals a heart attack. The pain could be a result of a problem with the nerves in that arm, for example. However, if the pain is sudden, you should seek medical attention immediately to rule out a heart attack.

Many people know that left arm pain and chest pain can signal a heart attack, but not all heart attacks have these symptoms. Protect yourself by knowing all of the symptoms of heart attack and seeking emergency medical care if you experience them.

Warning signs

  • Chest discomfort: Many heart attacks involve discomfort in the center 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. And remember: NOT ALL PEOPLE WITH HEART ATTACKS HAVE CHEST PAIN.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body: Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
  • Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, or suddenly feeling nauseous, lightheaded or extremely tired.

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Is Mild Chest Pain Normal

Chest pain may arise and subside every few minutes or over several days. The cause may be related to the heart, the muscles, the digestive system, or psychological factors. Underlying causes of chest pain may be mild, as in the case of acid reflux. Or, they may be serious and indicate, for example, a heart attack.

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How Is Peripheral Artery Disease Treated

HealthWatch: Pain Caused by Heart Attack May Move Beyond Chest

Healthcare professionals treat PAD through several different approaches:

  • Reducing your risk of blood clots. If you smoke, a doctor will ask you to stop. Smoking increases your risk of blood clots. A doctor also may prescribe medications to reduce your risk of blood clots, such as aspirin or antiplatelet medications like clopidogrel or warfarin .
  • Reducing your cholesterol. High cholesterol leads to deposits in the blood vessels that further narrow them. Taking medications, such as statins, to lower cholesterol can reduce your risk of worsening PAD. Eating a healthy diet can help too.
  • Surgery. If you experience significant changes to your arteries, you may need surgery to bypass the blockages. This surgical approach is like rerouting traffic to a clear lane. However, doctors only use this approach for those with severe PAD.

These treatments can not only reduce your pain with physical activity but also reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.

Also Check: What Is Your Heart Rate During An Anxiety Attack

Treating Left Arm Pain

If your left arm pain is benign, you can initially treat it by resting, applying a cold compress to the painful area and elevating your arm. If the pain is caused by a fracture, your arm will have to be immobilised in a plaster cast for several weeks. If it is caused by a musculoskeletal issue , treatment may include painkillers or anti-inflammatory drugs, rest, and physiotherapy. Using one of the OMRON HeatTens range of pain relievers can also help to relieve muscle and joint pain using a combination of soothing heat and Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation . If the pain is caused by an underlying heart condition, the treatment may involve taking medication for pain relief, in addition to making some radical changes to your lifestyle. Finally, if someone is having a heart attack, they must receive immediate medical treatment because heart attacks can be fatal and sometimes require surgery if medication alone does not dissolve the clot that is causing the problem.


Wexler, A. . Why do I have a pain in my left arm? Retrieved from

Pietrangelo, A. . Why is there pain in my left arm? Retrieved from

New Health Guide. What causes pain on the left arm? Retrieved from

Section 1 Of : Causes

  • 1Heart attack Left arm pain is a sign of a heart attack, especially in conjunction with other symptoms. If you are experiencing the symptoms of a heart attack, right away. Symptoms of a heart attack include:XTrustworthy SourceAmerican Heart AssociationLeading nonprofit that funds medical research and public educationGo to source
  • Chest discomfort or pain
  • Read Also: Heart Attack And Blood Pressure

    How Do You Know If Left Arm Pain Is Heart Related

    In men, the left arm pain will move from the shoulder down the left arm or up to the chin. If the pain comes on suddenly and is unusually severe, or is accompanied by pressure or squeezing in the chest, seek emergency treatment immediately. In women, the pain can be subtler. It can radiate to the right or left arm.

    What To Do When A Heart Attack Occurs

    Heart attack pain locations

    If you believe a person is having a heart attack, have them sitting, keep them calm, loosen any tight clothing they may be wearing, have the person take any chest pain medications like nitroglycerin. If pain does not improve within three minutes of taking the medication, call emergency right away. Always call 911 immediately if a person is unconscious.

    DO NOT leave the person, have them convince you not to call 911, wait to see if symptoms go away, give the person anything by mouth unless it is a prescribed medication.

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    For People With Type 2 Diabetes

    A doctor might prescribe specific medications for people with type 2 diabetes whose glucose levels remain high despite them making lifestyle changes and taking metformin.

    These medications should lower blood glucose and reduce the risk of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease.

    A doctor may prescribe either a sodium glucose cotransporter 2 inhibitor, such as canagliflozin , or a glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonist, such as dulaglutide .

    Describe Chest Pain To Your Doctor

    Doctors use several pieces of information to determine who is, and who isn’t, having a heart attack. In addition to the description of your symptoms and your heart risk profile, doctors use the results of an electrocardiogram and a blood test called cardiac troponin. But sometimes these don’t immediately show abnormalities. So, what you describe to the doctor and your medical history are extremely important in determining the initial steps in your treatment.

    Here are some things your doctors will want to know about what you are experiencing:

    • What is it that you are feeling ?

    • Where is the discomfort?

    • Has it gotten worse or stayed the same?

    • Is the feeling constant, or does it come and go?

    • Have you felt it before?

    • What were you doing before these feelings started?

    Clear answers to these questions go a long way toward nailing down a diagnosis. A few seconds of recurrent stabbing pain is less likely to be a heart attack , while pain centered in the chest that spreads out to the left arm or jaw is more likely to be one.

    Read Also: What Is The Average Heart Rate Per Minute

    Jaw Neck Or Back Pain

    Jaw, neck or back pain may also serve as heart attack warning signs. While both men and women may experience pain in these areas ahead of a heart attack, research suggests women experience jaw and back pain, specifically, more frequently than men.

    While the above symptoms are not always indications of heart attacks and may have other underlying causes, it is critical that you seek medical care immediately in the event that you or someone else starts exhibiting any of them. Calling 911 may be the fastest and most effective method of receiving prompt care.

    If you are having a heart attack, every minute matters. Having emergency responders come to you, rather than you transporting yourself to the hospital, means medical professionals can begin treating you that much faster, which may ultimately mean the difference between life and death.

    Heart Attack Warning Signs For Women

    Left arm pain may be a heart attack

    While chest pain is often a symptom of a heart attack among women, the pain is often described as pressure or tightness instead of the heavy weight on the chest pain that men describe.

    In some cases, there may only be other symptoms and very little or no chest pain.

    Women are also more likely than men to experience nontraditional heart attack symptoms, such as:

    • unusual or extreme fatigue, which may develop several days before other symptoms and may make you feel like youre coming down with the flu
    • pain or discomfort in the upper abdomen that may feel like heartburn or indigestion
    • throat and jaw pain, often without any chest pain
    • symptoms that come on gradually

    Women are often reluctant to seek medical attention for heart attack symptoms, partly because of delays in recognizing heart attack symptoms since theyre not commonly talked about.

    While women are slightly less likely than men to have heart attacks before menopause, the odds essentially are equal after menopause.

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    Shortness Of Breath Nausea And Lightheadedness

    Shortness of breath can occur with or without a chest pain during a heart attack. Most people dont realize this can happen before or after a heart attack as wellespecially for women..

    Research has found that shortness of breath is the third most reported symptom before a heart attack among women and the top symptom during a heart attack.

    Left Arm Pain Doesnt Always Mean Youre Having A Heart Attack Heres What To Watch For

    Story by: Norton Healthcare on October 24, 2019

    Left arm pain and how the pain moves can be one of the key differences between mens and womens heart attacks.

    In men, the left arm pain will move from the shoulder down the left arm or up to the chin. If the pain comes on suddenly and is unusually severe, or is accompanied by pressure or squeezing in the chest, seek emergency treatment immediately.

    In women, the pain can be subtler. It can radiate to the right or left arm. It can involve the chin, shoulder blades and upper back. The pain can reach into the abdomen and feel like nausea, indigestion and anxiety. Women are more likely than men to experience shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting and back or jaw pain.

    Like in men, chest pain or discomfort is a common heart attack symptom in women. The pressure or squeezing can last for more than a few minutes or be intermittent in women. Seek emergency medical treatment immediately if you have heart attack symptoms.

    Not all left arm pain, achiness or difficulty moving is a sign of a heart attack. Sometimes the cause is an injury, compressed nerves or other issues that dont involve your heart.

    Be mindful of the other symptoms, and if they last for more than a couple minutes, get emergency help.

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