When a person starts feeling chest pain it's likely that they will be concerned. Chest pain on the left side of the body can be even more frightening because this side effect is often associated with a heart attack. In the event of a heart attack you will want to get medical attention as quickly as possible, but other symptoms that can cause chest pain may not require the same kind of emergency care. Knowing the signs of a heart attack and other likely causes of chest pain can help you narrow down if your situation is life threatening or not.
Chest Pain on the Left Side and Heart Attack
Chest pain on the left side of the body is a classic sign that you may soon experience a heart attack. In most cases this pain is combined with other side effects. The pain in the chest is often described as pressure, squeezing, or fullness within the chest cavity. In some cases a burning sensation and pain will accompany these side effects. Numbness, pain, prickling or other sensations are commonly felt in the left arm, though these side effects can transfer over to the right. The arms may also feel weak, achy or suddenly feel heavier than normal.
If you are suffering from an impending heart attack you may suddenly feel a shortness of breath. Unusual fatigue may overtake the body and you may begin to feel lightheaded or dizzy. Many patients also fall into a cold sweat or begin flushing just before having a heart attack. The pain of the chest may also begin to travel to your back. Not all patients will experience all of these symptoms. If you experience one or more of these and your discomfort comes on suddenly, contact emergency medical services for assistance.
Other Causes of Chest Pain on the Left Side
Heart pain. Due to the high concentration of organs in the chest there are a number of issues which can lead to chest pain on the left side of the body. In addition to having a heart attack, heart pain can be caused by angina, a condition which is caused when normal blood flow is limited due to the harrowing of the arteries. When it gets difficult for the blood to flow, you may feel a tightness or sharp pain similar to a muscle cramp on the left side. This may be more common or more pronounced after physical activity where the heart is beating faster.
Stress. Stress can also lead to chest pain which may manifest itself on the left side. You may feel tightness in the chest which becomes worse or agitated during periods of extreme stress. Poor lifestyle choices can also lead to conditions which put excessive pressure on the heart or cause the arteries to tighten, causing pain on the left side of the chest. These include diabetes, obesity or excessive intake of alcohol or tobacco. If left unchecked, these issues can lead to severe cardiac issues including a heart attack.
Intestinal trouble. Sometimes intestinal trouble will cause pain in the chest. Gas pushing its way up through the intestines can cause pain on the left side of the chest. Heartburn or severe digestive disorders can also cause chest pain when symptoms flare. If classic signs of a heart attack do not accompany this pain then it is likely that you are experiencing something other than cardiac dysfunction.
Physical injuries. Physical injuries to the chest can also lead to pain on the left side which can be uncomfortable. Straining a muscle, contracting a large bruise or pinching a nerve can cause the left side to become sore. In addition to causing chest pain, a pinched nerve can lead to numbness or desensitization in the arm which can be mistaken for a heart attack. Evaluating your symptoms carefully can help you determine if you are suffering from an injury or a cardiac issue.
When to See a Doctor
Seek medical attention. If you begin to feel any of the symptoms of a heart attack listed above in addition to developing pain in the chest, you should seek medical attention. Pain from a heart attack is often described as tightness or pressure rather than a stabbing pain or a dull ache which begins in the chest but begins to become more severe and radiate to other parts of the body over the course of a few minutes. Pain that lasts for a long period of time or is noticeably localized to one area is probably not a heart attack, but may still require medical attention if you have injured yourself.
Few things to alleviate discomfort. Patients who are experiencing chest pain that does not appear to be life threatening can do a few things to help alleviate their discomfort. Get into a resting position such as lying on a bed and take multiple short breaths until your breathing calms. Drinking a glass of water can also help you reach a state of calm which can help relieve your chest pain. Placing ice in the area that is causing you pain can help relieve some of the tension. Pain killers can also be useful, but you may want to contact your doctor regarding which medications would be appropriate to use so you do not aggravate your condition further.
Adjust to your lifestyle. If you are experiencing chest pain frequently you may need to make adjustments to your lifestyle to find permanent relief. Eating a healthier diet, cutting out smoking or alcohol and developing an exercise routine can be helpful ways to start ridding yourself of pain. Consult with your doctor about which changes would be the most appropriate to make and what kind of exercises are safe to do with your condition.