Nearly 65 million American men and women experience back pain at some point in their life. And although back pain is generally caused by something minor, like sore muscles or sleeping in a poor position, back pain can potentially signify more serious conditions. But how do you know if your condition is serious and when should you seek medical treatment? Keep reading to learn whether or not is back pain a sign of heart attack and what to do in case of an emergency. 

what is a heart attack

What is a Heart Attack?

Put simply, a heart attack is the blockage of blood flow to the heart muscle. This medical emergency usually occurs when a blood clot forms and blocks blood flow to the heart; causing the tissue to lose oxygen and die. A heart attack can also be caused by a buildup of plaque, fat, cholesterol, or other substances. 

signs of a heart attack

Common Signs and Symptoms of a Heart Attack 

When answering the question, is back pain a sign of heart attack, you need to know that the signs of a heart attack vary greatly. However, if you know what to look for, the condition can be identified and treated sooner. Here are some symptoms commonly associated with heart attacks: 

Chest discomfort

  • Chest pain is a common symptom of a heart attack. However, because chest pain severity varies greatly in heart attack sufferers, it is oftentimes overlooked until it’s too late. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes. People have described the pain as an uncomfortable pressure or squeezing sensation. 

Discomfort throughout the upper body

  • In addition to chest pain, lots of sufferers report aches and pains in the upper body. This is usually neck, jaw, or arm pain

Shortness of breath

  • Shortness of breath can occur with or without the presence of chest pain, and is often one of the first signs of a heart attack. It can be misconstrued as another condition, particularly if the person is overweight, suffers from anxiety, or has other risk factors like heart disease

Excessive sweating, unusual fatigue, or dizziness

  • These symptoms are less noticeable, because people may often experience any or all of them due to completely unrelated things. If you live in a particularly hot area, sweating or dizziness may be written off as spending too much time in the heat. Pay attention to your body and get help if any or all of these symptoms come on suddenly. 

A heart attack is a serious condition that requires urgent medical care. If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms, call 911 or get them emergency medical care as quickly as possible. 

heart attacks and back pains

The Link Between Heart Attacks and Back Pain

Many people find it difficult to understand the correlation between heart attacks and back pain. Back pain tends to occur prior to or during a heart attack because, when the blood flow in a coronary artery is blocked, it can cause intense pressure. This pain can radiate from the chest to the upper back, which is why people feel back pain before a heart attack. Women are more likely to experience back pain as a precursor to a heart attack because they tend to experience more subtle heart attack symptoms. Additional symptoms that women may get along with back pains can include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Stomach pain

Common Causes of Back Pain 

Not all back pain is caused by an impending heart attack. There are plenty of reasons that people may experience back pain that do not require emergency attention. Here are some of the most common causes of back pain and how to prevent it: 

Muscle or ligament strain

  • If you are new to a workout regime or otherwise exerted your body recently, this can be a contributing factor to back pain. The best course of action would be to take it easy and consult your doctor if the pain worsens. 


  • Arthritis can impact the lower back, causing recurring back pain. Speak to your doctor about supplements or medications that you can take to help alleviate this pain. 

Poor posture 

  • Poor posture is one of the most common reasons people experience back pain. Whether you slouch excessively or sit at a desk all day, not practicing good posture is a sure way to have back pain. Strengthening your core muscles and putting in a conscious effort to maintain your posture should help alleviate your symptoms. 

Bad mattress and/or pillows

  • If you find yourself moving around restlessly in the night, odds are that your bedding could be the cause of your back pain. Depending on the way you sleep and your body type, switching to a soft or firm mattress can help your back pain by providing adequate support. 

Don’t Wait for Emergency Medical Treatment

Heart attacks are a serious, potentially life-threatening, medical condition that should be treated as quickly as possible. If you are wondering is back pain a sign of heart attack, get to an emergency room near you as quickly as possible.