So if you have a heart problem like severely clogged arteries or a rhythm disorder, would pressing your fingers or palm on your chest bring out any pain?

What if you were having a heart attack?

“Pain reproduced by pressing on the chest or with body motion” is “less likely to be a heart attack,” according to Harvard Health Publications.

The key term here is “less likely.” This does not mean “100 percent definitely not.”

CAN a heart attack make pressing on the chest hurt?

“It can, even though there is a misunderstanding that pain on pressing the chest wall means it is not coming from the heart,” says Dr. Kavitha Chinnaiyan, MD, a cardiologist at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, MI.

Dr. Chinnaiyan is founder of Heal Your Heart, Free Your Soul, an online, yoga-based prevention program.

Dr. Chinnaiyan explains, “On rare occasions, there can be tenderness over the chest wall when one is having a heart attack or pain as a result of blocked arteries.

“In general, however, pain when pressing on the chest wall happens in heart-unrelated conditions like inflammation of the rib joints (known as costochondritis).”

Kaiser Permanente Health Matters states that “If chest pain increases if you press your finger on the painful site, it is probably from a strained muscle, ligament or maybe even a fractured rib.”

Costochondritis is an inflammation of the cartilage in the chest wall (this is no secret among weightlifters), and this kind of pain should last only several days.

Movement and pressing on the hurting area will aggravate it.

Have you ever noticed that in any of the symptom lists you’ve read for heart attack (or pending attack), the symptom of “hurts when the area is pressed on” never shows up?

Heart Attack Symptoms

• Pain is not responsive to rest

• Sweating

• Nausea

• Shortness of breath

• Weakness

More Symptoms to Consider

• Tightness, burning, fullness, squeezing or pressure in the chest

• Pain in center of chest

• Numbness, prickling, pinching or pain in the jaw, neck, back or one or both arms

• Vomiting

• Dizziness or lightheadedness

• Unexplained fatigue

• Cold sweat

What about arrhythmia symptoms?

• Fluttering in chest

• Racing pulse

• Slow pulse

• Chest pain

• Shortness of breath

• Dizziness, lightheadedness

• Sweating

• Fainting, feeling faint

These arrhythmia symptoms are also typical on symptom lists, and “hurts to press chest” is never included.

Kirk Laman, MD, a cardiologist with, states on the site: “…women with heart blockages sometimes present with sharp pain. As a general rule, the pain is not worse with pressing on the chest.”

The key phrase is “As a general rule.”

So what does all of this mean?

• Never assume unexplained chest pain can’t be a heart attack or severe artery blockage just because it doesn’t hurt to press on your chest.

• Discomfort from pressing on your chest does not rule out a heart problem.

• In the vast majority of cases when pressing on the chest hurts, there is not a heart problem.

Dr. Chinnaiyan has authored and co-authored 100+ manuscripts and abstracts. She has served as the Chair of the Board of Directors of the American Heart Association of Southeast Michigan.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  
Top image: Shutterstock/femme