What It Really Means When The Left Side Of Your Chest Hurts

If you or someone near you experiences pain on the left side of the chest, your first thought is likely that it's a heart attack. After all, the heart sits in the upper left part of the chest, right? Well, not exactly. The heart is actually situated fairly centrally in the chest, behind the breastbone, and between the two lungs. It does skew slightly left of center, only because the heart's left ventricle is larger and stronger than the right (via Science Focus).

Left-sided chest pain should never be ignored, but it doesn't necessarily mean a heart attack. There are quite a few other conditions that can cause left-sided chest pain. Some are serious and even life-threatening, while others are benign. Since the heart is in close proximity to the lungs and other major organs and tissues, problems in one of these areas could also result in chest pain on the left side of your body.

Chest pain should never be ignored

There are several indications that left-sided chest pain may not signal a heart attack. If the pain is located in a specific location, gradually worsens with breathing, or moves from one side of the chest to the other, it is more likely due to another cause. Injury, acid reflux, or even a panic attack might be the culprit (Medical News Today).

Chest pain that is caused by a heart attack typically starts in the middle of the chest and moves to the back, arms, or jaw. The heart may feel heavy, and symptoms can also include disorientation, dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath, and sudden sweating (via MSN). It's important to note that men are about twice as likely to experience "typical" symptoms of a heart attack compared to women. Women are more likely to experience subtle heart attack symptoms, like weakness, shortness of breath, a general feeling of illness, heartburn, and body aches.

Left-sided chest pain should always be taken seriously. "You cannot determine if chest pain is serious with a Google search or by asking friends or family members (unless they are a physician)," cardiologist Dr. Noel Bairey Merz told MSN. "You must get a diagnostic evaluation with a physician without delay."