Many people ask the exact location of the heart. Is it on the left side, middle, or right side of the chest? One of the reasons why individuals ask this is because they experience chest pain. The first thing that comes to mind when the chest hurts is heart attack. But there are also other factors that lead to pain on the chest area. You have probably experienced a temporary sensation that alleviates after a few seconds or minutes. The pain may last for hours, or days.
A person may experience chest pain due to muscle pull, gas, or anxiety. While many people have chest pains in many points in their lives, most of the causes are not life threatening. However, the pain on the chest area can also be one of the symptoms of something serious. It can be a condition associated with the other organs of the body, or a sign of a heart problem. Whether you experience it once or many times, you should not ignore the pain not only in the chest area but also in other parts of the body.
Where is Your Heart Located?
The heart is not exactly located on the left side of the chest. With a size of your fist, your heart lies between the left and right lungs, behind your breastbone, and is slightly towards the left. Place your right palm in the middle of your chest. Move your hand a bit to the left, and that’s the exact location of your heart. It is located in front of the spine and between your lungs. Your heart is secured inside the chest by the rib cage.
You may feel sudden pressure or pain on the exact location of your heart. You may also experience pain on other areas near the heart. The pain on your heart’s location does not necessarily mean that you are already experiencing a heart attack. However, keep in mind that even if the pain is not exactly on your heart, that does not mean that it is not a heart attack. Do not depend solely on the particular location of the heart.
Several Chest Pains Related with Heart
The location of the pain may not correctly tell if it is associated with the heart. Now that you already know the answer to, “Where is your heart located?” here are the several chest pains related with your heart.
1. Heart Attack
The pain caused by a heart attack feels like a tight ache, squeezing or fullness in the chest that can last for a few minutes. Other symptoms of heart attack include:
- Stomach pain that extends into the abdominal area, which may feel like heartburn
- Pain that spreads to the arms, neck, shoulders, jaw and teeth
- Shortness of breath and lightheadedness
- Nausea, vomiting and sweating
- Anxiety or panicking for no reason
If you suspect that you or someone is having a heart attack, seek medical attention right away.
Another cause of chest pain is angina. This is caused by reduced blood flow to the muscles of the heart. It is also a symptom of coronary artery disease. The pain caused by angina is described as squeezing, tightness, pressure, or pain in the chest. If you are experiencing pain in your chest, go to a doctor immediately. The symptoms of angina include:
- Discomfort or pain in the chest
- Pain in the arms, jaw, neck, back or shoulder
- Nausea, dizziness and fatigue
- Sweating and shortness of breath
Angina is hard to differentiate from other types of chest pain.
3. Coronary Artery Disease
Coronary artery disease occurs when the major blood vessels that supply oxygen, blood and nutrients to the heart become diseased or damaged. This disease often develops for years, and a person may not notice the health issue until there is already a big blockage or heart attack. The signs and symptoms may include:
- Heart attack
- Shortness of breath
- Neck or Jaw pain
The most common causes of coronary artery disease are high cholesterol, smoking, sedentary lifestyle and diabetes.
Myocarditis is the inflammation of the myocardium (heart muscle). Even the healthy ones can get myocarditis, which is caused by a viral infection. When the virus enters the body, the body produces cells to combat against it. If the disease-fighting cells made their way to your heart, it can cause heart-muscle inflammation. Most of the time, it does not show any symptoms. If you develop symptoms of myocarditis, they may include:
- Stabbing or sharp chest pain that spreads to shoulders and neck
- Signs of infection (fever, headache, sore throat, diarrhea)
- Shortness of breath and fatigue
- Swollen joints, neck veins, or legs
- Abnormal heartbeat that may cause fainting
- Small amounts of urine
5. Mitral Valve Prolapse
The mitral valve assists the blood flow from one chamber of the heart (left atrium) to another (left ventricle). Mitral valve prolapse occurs when the mitral valve slips back into the left atrium. This happens when the left ventricle, which is the main muscle of the heart, squeezes during every heartbeat. Some people do not develop any symptoms, which others may experience chest pain. Other symptoms include:
- Rapid heartbeat or palpitations
- Shortness of breath
- Anxiety and panic
- Numbness and tingling sensation in feet and hands
- Swelling in the feet and legs
Pericarditis is the inflammation of the layers of the pericardium, which is a thin tissue sac surrounding the heart. The main causes of this disease include heart attack, radiation, infections, tumors, trauma, cancer, heart surgery, and autoimmune diseases. The most common signs and symptoms of pericarditis may include:
- Chest pain
- Low-grade fever
- Increased heart rate
7. Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy
This is associated with the thickening of the muscles of the heart. This results in stiffening of the walls of the organ, which may hamper normal blood flow. Some symptoms of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy include:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
Understanding Cardiac and Non-Cardiac Chest Pain
Here is the comparison between cardiac and other chest pain.
Cardiac Chest Pain
- Usually occurs in the morning
- Chest pain feels like squeezing, deep, burning, pressure, heaviness and radiates to the arms, back and jaw.
- The pain may be caused by movements or exertion of the upper arms. It can also occur after heavy meals or extreme temperature.
- Chest pain may be resolved once the exertion is reduced.
- Avoiding exertion can alleviate the pain. Make sure to seek medical help immediately.
Non-Cardiac Chest Pain
- Usually occurs in the evening
- Chest pain feels like sharp and real pain, which can be located easily.
- The pain happens on its own. Heartburn may occur after meals.
- Chest pain usually comes and goes fast and may last for a few hours.
- Exercise, exertion or breathing exercises can alleviate the pain.
Other Causes of Chest Pain
There are some problems that can make you experience chest pain.
1. Lung Problems
A person may also experience chest pain due to lung problems.
- Pleurisy – an irritation or inflammation of the lining of the lungs. This feels like a sharp pain when breathing, sneezing, or coughing. This is caused by an infection of the lower respiratory system caused by bacteria or virus.
- Pulmonary embolism – this occurs when the when a clump of material or blood clot gets stuck into an artery of the lungs.
- Pulmonary hypertension – a type of high blood pressure that affects the right side of the heart and the arteries in the lungs.
- Pneumothorax – also known as collapsed lung, this occurs when the air leads into the space between the lung and chest wall.
- Asthma – causing wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, and chest pain.
- Pneumonia – lung infections may also cause chest pain, and may also come with chills, fever and cough.
2. Gastrointestinal Problems
These are the gastrointestinal problems that can lead to chest pain.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease – also known as acid reflux, this occurs when the contents of the stomach move back into your throat.
- Gallbladder problems – this occurs after eating fatty foods, which gives a sensation of fullness or pain on the upper right side of the abdomen or lower right area of the chest.
- Pancreatitis – a person may have pancreatitis when there is a pain the lower chest, which is always worse when lying flat. It gets better when leaning forward.
- Esophageal rupture or perforation – a sudden chest pain following vomiting. The pain may also follow after a procedure that involves the esophagus.
- Hiatal hernia – this occurs when the top of your stomach pushes into your lower chest after eating.
- Peptic ulcers – this is more common in people who drink, smoke, or take pain-killers. A vague recurring pain may the caused by the sores in the lining of the stomach.
3. Nerve, Bone, or Muscle Problems
Chest pain may also occur due to a fall, accident, or viruses.
- Shingles – this is caused by varicella zoster virus. A person may experience sharp pain before rashes appear.
- Muscle strain – coughing hard can cause inflammation or injury to the tendons and muscles between the ribs. This can lead to chest pain.
- Rib problems – a rib fracture can worsen coughing or breathing.