Can Left Shoulder Pain be a Sign of Heart Attack?

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Aman Priya Khanna
Written by Rajath R Prabhu, last updated on 3 December 2022
Can Left Shoulder Pain be a Sign of Heart Attack?

Understanding the symptoms of dangerous medical emergencies like a heart attack is important to respond quickly to the same. As heart attacks occur more prevalent in society, it has become integral for people to learn more about the same and its symptoms.

Learning about heart attacks helps people understand what shoulder pain associated with heart attack means and how to seek medical intervention when that happens.

When trying to comprehend the underlying causes of shoulder pain and how it can lead to a heart attack, one needs to consider that the symptoms can vary from individual to individual. It may also depend on gender, age, lifestyle, and other factors.

Let's try to understand how can Left Shoulder Pain be a Sign of Heart Attack, and other symptoms.

What is a Heart Attack?

A heart attack is a serious medical emergency where the blood supply to the heart muscle is suddenly blocked. This can happen due to a blockage in one or more coronary arteries supplying blood-rich oxygen to the heart muscle. When the blood flow is cut off, the blood cannot bring oxygen to the heart, causing the heart to fail.

How to tell if you are having a Heart Attack?

It is crucial to seek medical help as quickly as possible during a heart attack. There are many signs that can help you tell if you are having a heart attack, which include:

  1. Chest pain or discomfort that lasts for a few minutes or frequently goes and comes
  2. Severe shoulder pain 
  3. Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, back, or arm
  4. Shortness of breath
  5. Cold sweat
  6. Nausea or vomiting
  7. Lightheadedness or dizziness

If you have any of these, call for medical help immediately or go to the nearest emergency room.

Causes of Heart Attack

Atherosclerosis is one of the many common causes of a heart attack, and this is a condition where plaque accumulates on the walls of the arteries. Plaque comprises cholesterol, fat, calcium, and many other substances usually found in the blood.

Over time, plaque can narrow the path of blood in the arteries. This makes the blood flow through the arteries difficult. When a plaque build-up becomes severe enough to block an artery significantly, it can cause a heart attack.

Other causes of heart attacks include:

  1. A sudden tear or rupture in an artery wall (known as an arterial dissection)
  2. A blood clot in an artery (known as an embolism)
  3. An abnormal heart rhythm (known as arrhythmia)
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Can Left Shoulder pain be a sign of Heart Attack?

Chest Pain is a common symptom of a heart attack, but it is not the only one. According to various studies in the field, most people with heart attacks experience left shoulder pain heart attack.

This is because the nerves that supply blood to the heart and chest also supply the shoulder. So, when there is a problem with the heart, those same nerves can cause pain in the shoulder. And this is what the shoulder pain associated with a heart attack.

Of course, not every left shoulder pain leads to a heart attack. There are many other potential causes of shoulder pain, such as muscle strain or arthritis. However, if you are experiencing sudden or severe shoulder pain, particularly on the left side, it is essential to pursue medical attention instantly, as it could signify a heart attack.

What else can shoulder pain indicate?

There are many common causes of shoulder pain. Rotator cuff injuries, arthritis, bursitis, and tendinitis, are the most common causes. Let's try to understand them in detail:

Rotator Cuff Injuries

  1. Rotator cuff injuries are a leading cause of shoulder pain. A rotator cuff is a cluster of tendons and muscles that connect the shoulder blade and upper arm bone. These muscles and tendons help lift the arm.
  2. A rotator cuff injury can occur from overuse, repetitive motion, or a sudden fall or blow to the arm. A rotator cuff injury can cause pain when lifting the arm or reaching overhead and weakness in the arm.
  3. Sometimes, you may experience a crackling sensation when moving your arm.


  1. Arthritis is another frequent cause of shoulder pain. Many types of arthritis can affect the shoulder joint, such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and post-traumatic arthritis.
  2. Arthritis symptoms include joint pain, stiffness, and decreased range of motion.


  1. It is a common condition causing shoulder pain. Bursae are small fluid-filled sacs that cushion between bones and tissues such as muscles and tendons.
  2. When these sacs become inflamed, it is called bursitis. Bursitis symptoms include pain when moving the affected joint, swelling, and warmth around the joint.


  1. Tendinitis is yet another condition that can lead to shoulder pain. Tendons are the thick cords attaching muscles to bones. When the tendons become irritated or inflamed, it is called tendinitis.
  2. Tendinitis symptoms include pain, stiffness, and tenderness around the affected joint.
  3. While these are a few of the most common shoulder pain causes, many other conditions can also cause shoulder pain, such as pinched neck nerves, muscle tears, lifting heavy items, etc.
  4. If you are experiencing shoulder pain and cannot recall any damage to the shoulder, see your doctor to discover the cause so that you can receive proper treatment.

Emergency treatments for a Heart Attack

Although the best way to save a person or yourself when experiencing heart attack symptoms is to call for an ambulance or emergency medical services, you can also do a couple of things to help.

  1. Chew and swallow medications like aspirin or nitroglycerin while you are waiting for the ambulance to come. Aspirin is a drug that can keep clots from forming in your arteries. Further, it can also reduce damage during a heart attack when taken. However, if you are allergic to aspirin, do not take it.
  2. Heart attacks can cause the person to lose consciousness and the heart to stop. If you cannot find a pulse, prepare to do emergency CPR to make sure that the blood still flows.
  3. Push at the centre of the person’s chest hard and fast for about 100 to 120 times per minute. Also, breathe into the person’s mouth to fill the lungs with air. Continue this till the medical help arrives.
  4. In more severe cases, medical procedures such as angioplasty or stenting may be necessary. Surgery, such as coronary artery bypass grafting, may also be required in some cases.


In many cases, shoulder pain and heart attack are directly connected, and left shoulder pain clearly indicates a heart attack. However, not all left shoulder pain can be a sign of a heart attack. When experiencing shoulder pain, one needs to consult a medical practitioner to determine and treat the causes. Ignoring the shoulder pain can lead to further complications later in life, no matter if the pain is related to heart conditions or any other issues in the shoulder.

When you are unsure why you are experiencing shoulder pain or other symptoms of a heart attack, getting adequate treatment is crucial. If you are looking for experienced and qualified professionals to help you treat any heart ailments and cardiac issues, HexaHealth is a great place to search for experts.

Even if your shoulder hurts due to any damage to your shoulder, HexaHealth can help you find the right treatment and medical professional to help you. It is a platform that offers an extensive list of medical professionals, hospitals, and treatment plans that users can choose based on their preferences. There are also options to find suitable medical insurance and payment options. So don’t wait; contact a HexaHealth expert today!

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you know if left shoulder pain is heart attack-related?

Although most pains that come in your shoulder area are not heart-related. However, it may be related to your heart if you experience severe pain that comes quickly and causes your chest to feel full, stressed, or squeezed. You must consult a cardiac specialist if you experience shoulder pain with such characteristics.

What part of the left shoulder hurts during a heart attack?

The pain experienced by men and women is different during a heart attack. In men, the pain is often severe and spreads to the left shoulder, up towards the chin, or down the left arm. 

In women, the pain is very subtle. The pain can travel to the left arm or the right arm, upper back, up to towards the chin, upper back, and/or to the abdomen.

When should I worry about left shoulder pain?

Sudden left shoulder pains can indicate a heart attack. Seek immediate medical help if the pain causes huge pressure on your chest and unbearable pain in your shoulder, especially if the pain travels from your chest to the jaw, neck, or arm. If the pain is accompanied by sweating, short breaths, or dizziness, it might be a sign of cardiac arrest.

What are the four signs of an impending heart attack?

Pressure, discomfort, fullness, or pain in the chest; sudden discomfort in other parts of the body; cold sweats and nausea; and difficulty in breathing and dizziness are the most visible signs of an impending heart attack.

Can you be having a heart attack for days?

Heart attacks happen suddenly, and it is what makes heart attacks life-threatening. However, there are many people that experience many warning signs of an impending heart attack prior to hours, days, or even weeks.

What can cause left shoulder pain without injury?

Shoulder pain can arise due to a range of reasons other than injury. A few of the common causes of shoulder pain are issues with the shoulder muscles, tendons, joints, etc. Arthritis, osteoporosis, rotator cuff tendinitis, brachial plexopathy, and pinched neck nerves can also cause left shoulder pain without injury.

Can shoulder pain be a symptom of something else?

Yes, it can be. Shoulder pain may be a symptom of a range of underlying adverse health conditions, such as arthritis, osteoporosis, rotator cuff tendinitis, brachial plexopathy, pinched neck nerve, and damage to shoulder muscles, tendons, or joints. Apart from this, shoulder pain may also indicate impending heart attacks.

Why do I have a sharp pain in my left shoulder?

The pain can be a cause of anything from a rotator cuff injury to tendonitis, arthritis, osteoporosis, brachial plexopathy, or a damaged joint in your shoulder. Along with this, sudden, sharp pain that travels to your chin, shoulder, and left arm might be the symptoms of a heart attack. Hence, if you have severe chest and shoulder pain with these characteristics, you must consult a doctor to seek medical help.

Does left shoulder pain always mean a heart attack?

No, it does not. There could be many other reasons that might cause pain in your left shoulder, such as a pinched neck nerve, arthritis, osteoporosis, joint injury, muscle tear, etc. However, if you have shoulder pain and cannot recall any kind of reason for the pain, you must consult a medical doctor and seek medical intervention.

When should I worry about left shoulder pain?

There are many reasons for your shoulder to hurt. If the pain is uncontrollable and does not go away even after home remedies, rest, and ice compression, you must seek medical help. If you have swelling in your shoulder and cannot move your shoulder, you should consult a medical professional. If the shoulder pain is severe and comes without any shoulder injury, or spreads across your chest, chin, or left arm, you must seek immediate medical assistance, as the pain could be an indication of a cardiac attack.

What organ causes left shoulder pain?

There are many reasons for your shoulder to hurt, such as injuries, infection in shoulder joints, muscle tears, tendonitis, etc. In addition, infections in your lungs or lung cancer can lead to shoulder pain. Heart problems are another reason for the left shoulder to cause hurt.

How do I know what type of shoulder pain I have?

There are different types of shoulder pains and different causes for the pain. If you are unsure why your shoulder hurts, you should consult a medical doctor for an expert opinion. As shoulder pain can indicate an impending heart attack, ignoring shoulder pain can be dangerous.

Where is heart pain located?

Heart attacks induce severe discomfort or pressure on the person's chest. The pain can concentrate around the center or towards the left side of the chest.

How long does a heart attack last?

Heart attacks can last from a few minutes to hours. One needs to understand that, however, the duration of the heart attack and its severity can change. Therefore, whenever you doubt that you are experiencing a heart attack, call for immediate medical help.

What does heart blockage feel like?

Severe pain and pressure on the left side or towards the center of the chest would be the first and foremost signs of a heart attack. It may be accompanied by pain in the arm or shoulder, shortness of breath, or strong sweating. Call for help if you experience any of these symptoms.

How do you check for a heart blockage at home?

It is impossible to check for a heart blockage at home. You must take your heart's CT Scan to see if there is a blockage in your heart.

How do you know if it's heart pain?

Heart pain is characterized by severe pressure on your left chest, and the pain spreads across your chest to the arm, chin, and shoulder. If the pain has these features, the chances of it being a heart attack are high.

Updated on : 3 December 2022


Dr. Aman Priya Khanna

Dr. Aman Priya Khanna

MBBS, DNB General Surgery, Fellowship in Minimal Access Surgery, FIAGES

12 Years Experience

Dr Aman Priya Khanna is a well-known General Surgeon, Proctologist and Bariatric Surgeon currently associated with HealthFort Clinic, Health First Multispecialty Clinic in Delhi. He has 12 years of experience in General Surgery and worke...View More


Rajath R Prabhu

Rajath R Prabhu

MSc. Clinical Research I PG Diploma in Public Health Services Management

3 Years Experience

His work in medical content writing and proofreading is noteworthy. He has also contributed immensely to public health research and has authored four scientific manuscripts in international journals. He was assoc...View More

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