“It’s a common misconception that angina causes pain to spread to the left arm and shoulder,” explains Charles C. Cummings, MD, Interventional Cardiologist, LifeBridge Health Cardiovascular Institute in Baltimore, MD.

Dr. Cummings continues, “It’s actually called referred pain. The reason is that the heart is formed [during embryonic development] at the same time that the nerves surrounding the left arm and shoulder are.

“The nerves that go from the heart are also shared with the left arm and shoulder.

“So what individuals are feeling is not left arm pain but actually heart pain that is felt like it is from the arm. That is called referred pain.

“This means that there’s nothing wrong with that arm when someone is having a heart attack.

“Additionally the same sensations of pain can happen with nerves in the jaw, back or tooth…which can cause pain in those areas of the body.”

Angina is a condition in which, due to obstructed blood flow in the coronary arteries from plaque buildup, blood flow through the heart is inadequate.

Angina typically causes chest pain and sometimes with that a feeling of not getting enough breath.

However, pain that radiates or refers to the left arm and shoulder may also occur.

charles cummings, md

Dr. Cummings holds several cardiovascular device patents and is board certified in internal medicine.
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.  


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