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.

Many conditions can lead to left arm pain, including a variety of musculoskeletal-type problems, gastroesophageal problems and cardiac issues. Heart attacks often involve pain in one or both arms, not necessarily the left arm.

Left arm pain does not always mean that you are having a heart attack. It could also be seen with simple musculoskeletal strain sometimes called overuse injury. If the arm hurts more with moving it, it is more likely related to the muscle, the bone or both. If the arm pain is associated with the main symptoms of a heart attack such as chest pain, fullness or a squeezing sensation, one should talk with their doctor or seek medical attention particular if there are other risk factors for heart disease present such as smoking, diabetes or high blood pressure. Finally, always play it safe. If you have concern about either left or right arm pain, it is better to go over your symptoms with a health care professional who can guide you to the proper course of action.

Dr. Chetan A. Patel, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Left arm pain can be a sign of heart attack especially if it happens along with chest pain or shortness of breath. Left arm pain, however, can also be caused by a number of musculoskeletal or orthopedic problems. If you have a history of heart disease or no injury to explain the left arm pain, you should be more concerned about a heart attack and seek medical attention.

The contents of this website are for informational purposes only and are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Nor does the contents of this website constitute the establishment of a physician patient or therapeutic relationship. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.