Left side chest pain is associated with a heart attack or temporary restriction of oxygen to the heart.
But indigestion is also known to cause pain in the chest region.
When one experiences recurring bouts of pain in the left side of their chest, they may fear it’s a warning of a heart attack to occur in the near future.
They may wonder if it’s due to clogged arteries obstructing blood flow to the heart.
But how likely is pain on the left side of the chest related to indigestion?
“There is a lot of overlap between gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms including indigestion and symptoms secondary to insufficient blood flow to the heart,” explains G. Shelton McMullan, MD, board certified gastroenterologist at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center.
“It is therefore possible that left sided chest pain can be secondary to GI issues such as GERD or spasm of the esophagus, for example.”
If you’re experiencing left side chest pain for no apparent reason – a new symptom that you’ve never had before – this needs to be checked out.
“Report of chest pain of any kind will lead first to cardiac evaluation to make sure the heart is not to blame,” says Dr. McMullan.
“Although discomfort that usually occurs with eating or drinking and is typically alleviated with acid-blocking medication or food makes suspicion for a cardiac source less likely, we must always make sure that the heart is healthy before anything else.”
Therefore, the first physician you should see is a cardiologist.
This should especially be the case if you have risk factors for heart disease or heart attack, such as:
• Absence of an exercise regimen
• Over age 50
• Family history of heart attack
• A diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea but non-compliance with CPAP therapy
• Uncontrolled high blood pressure
“Angina, or chest discomfort thought to be from decreased blood flow to the heart muscle, is usually elicited by activity and is often associated with other symptoms such as sweating, nausea and/or shortness of breath,” points out Dr. McMullan.
Take note of what seems to trigger your left side chest pain.
• Does it usually occur after eating?
• Only in the middle of the night?
• Only during physical exertion?
• Only during emotional stress?
• Only when your body is in certain positions?
• Is it sometimes accompanied by dizziness, a faint feeling or shortness of breath?
These details will help guide a cardiologist in assessing the symptom. If your cardiac workup turns up negative, your next stop is a gastroenterologist or internal medicine physician who has a special focus on GI disorders.
Left sided chest pain that lasts only seconds at a time is not nearly as concerning as discomfort that has a duration of beyond several minutes.
Dr. McMullan has published numerous medical abstracts and presented posters related to the management and treatment of inflammatory bowel disease and other gastroenterological conditions.