When you think about the warning signs of a heart attack, your mind probably goes to some of the most common issues patients experience: shortness of breath, chest pain, and nausea. Back pain may not even pop up on your radar when you’re worried about your heart health.
After all, back pain usually isn’t associated with your internal organs. You usually suffer from back pain because you injured a nerve, popped a disk, or pulled a muscle. Despite this, back pain is one of the top warning signs of a heart attack, especially in women.
If you’re concerned about your heart health or just want to make sure your cardiovascular system is in tip-top shape, come see the team at Phoenix Heart. We were recently voted No. 1 in cardiology groups by Ranking Arizona magazine and we aim to set the bar in cardiological care. Our medical team is dedicated to treating patients and their caregivers with the utmost respect, empathy, and professionalism. We are consistently at the forefront of adopting the newest and best technologies to advance the health of our patients.
Maintaining your heart health starts with being aware of symptoms that could be problematic. Use this blog post as a resource to identify when back pain could be a precursor to a heart attack. First, we’ll take a closer look at how heart attacks happen, and then will explain the connection between heart attacks and back pain.
What causes a heart attack?
To understand the connection between heart attacks and back pain, it’s best to know what causes a heart attack. A heart attack occurs when the flow of blood to the heart is severely reduced or blocked.
Blockages are caused by clots, which are buildups of plaque that eventually stop blood from flowing through the arteries that feed the heart, also known as the coronary arteries. Heart attacks are deadly not just because they stop blood flow, but because they damage or destroy the heart muscle. When the heart muscle is too damaged to pump regularly or at all, the body cannot function properly.
The connection between back pain and heart attack
When the blood flow in a coronary artery is blocked, it causes an immense amount of pressure. In many people, this causes a sensation of pressure, cramping, or squeezing in the chest.
The pain can also radiate to the back; that’s why many people feel both chest and back pain before a heart attack. Sometimes, the pain is only present in the upper back. It’s also possible to feel pain in your neck, jaws, shoulders, or abdomen.
Back pain that occurs with exercise and disappears with rest could also be a sign of heart failure.
Why women are more likely to feel back pain
Everyone knows what it means when someone suddenly grabs their chest. We’ve all seen the movie scene where a man dramatically clutches his heart and falls to the floor. Women, on the other hand, are more likely to experience symptom clusters, where multiple heart attack warning signs occur at the same time.
Many women suffer from a combination of the following:
- Shortness of breath
- Stomach pain
Because these symptoms tend to be subtler and often associated with other illnesses, many women do not realize they are suffering from a heart attack.
The final word on back pain and heart attacks
As mentioned earlier, back pain by itself is not a harbinger of a coming heart attack. You are more likely to experience back pain because of a herniated disc or muscle strain. However, women should be aware that they may feel subtler symptoms. If you are enduring back pain in conjunction with other heart attack symptoms, come see us at Phoenix Heart.
Take control of your cardiac health with Phoenix Heart. Call or request an appointment at one of our Arizona offices today.