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Could My Chest Pain Be From Acid Reflux?

Chest pain can be a cause for immediate concern as it is often associated with serious medical conditions such as heart problems. However, not all chest pain is related to cardiac issues. Heartburn 一 a common symptom of gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD) 一 affects as many as 15 million Americans on a daily basis. Heartburn refers to a burning sensation in your throat or chest. 

Because chest pain can be caused by many different conditions, it’s important to know whether you’re dealing with acid reflux or something more serious. Dr. Henock Saint-Jacques and our expert team here at Harlem Cardiology can pinpoint the source of your chest pain here in East Harlem, New York City.

In the meantime, learn more about the connection between acid reflux and chest pain and how to tell the difference between the two.

What is acid reflux?

Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid flows back into your esophagus. Stomach acid is incredibly acidic, so it irritates the tissue in your esophagus. Common signs of acid reflux include heartburn, regurgitation, and a burning sensation in your chest and throat.

What’s the connection between acid reflux and chest pain?

While acid reflux is primarily associated with digestive symptoms, it can sometimes cause chest pain. Here's how:

Acid reflux disease causes heartburn

Heartburn is a common symptom of acid reflux and is often described as a burning pain in the chest. This discomfort can be intense and may be confused with heart-related chest pain.

Acid reflux causes esophageal spasms 

When stomach acid irritates your esophagus, it can lead to spasms. These spasms may cause a sharp, squeezing chest pain and can be mistaken for heart issues.

Acid reflux causes other chest discomfort

Acid reflux contributes to chronic coughing, wheezing, and throat clearing. Acid reflux disease can also exacerbate asthma symptoms. These chest-related symptoms may create an overall chest discomfort that can be alarming.

How to tell the difference between cardiac-related chest pain and acid reflux

Knowing how to differentiate between acid reflux-related chest pain and cardiac chest pain can potentially save your life or the life of a loved one. Here are some factors to consider:

Location of pain

Cardiac chest pain typically occurs in the center or left side of the chest, whereas acid reflux pain often feels like it's behind the breastbone.

Keep in mind, though, that some people may experience heart attack pain in their left arm or even in their jaw. Heartburn and chest discomfort related to acid reflux are more localized and don't radiate.


Cardiac chest pain may be triggered by physical activity or emotional stress. 

Acid reflux pain often worsens after eating or when lying down. Spicy food, heavy or greasy meals, and any food too close to bed can also trigger acid reflux disease. Some of the most common dietary triggers include chocolate, carbonated beverages, peppermint, and tomato-based sauces. Pregnant women often experience heartburn due to hormonal changes and the added pressure on digestive organs from the growing uterus. 

Duration of pain

Acid reflux pain may appear shortly after exposure to specific triggers, such as eating a spicy meal. Heartburn can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours.

Other symptoms

Cardiac pain is often associated with shortness of breath, sweating, and nausea. Women, in particular, are more likely to experience these types of heart attack symptoms.

Acid reflux-related chest pain is more likely to be accompanied by symptoms like regurgitation, heartburn, and indigestion. You might feel bloated, gassy, and have a bad (sour) taste in your mouth.

When to seek medical care for chest pain

If you experience chest pain, especially for the first time or if it’s severe, take it seriously. While acid reflux can and does cause chest pain, don’t automatically brush off chest pain as acid reflux. 

If you're unsure about the origin of your chest pain or if it's severe, sudden, or accompanied by other concerning symptoms, call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room.

If you have concerns about recurrent chest pain, call our office at  646-381-2181. You can also use our online booking tool to schedule a non-emergency appointment.

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