Is Neck Pain a Sign of a Heart Attack: A Comprehensive Guide

Research and Evidence based article is taken from the study by Dr. Marshall Emig MD

In this article, Is Neck Pain a Sign of a Heart Attack: A Comprehensive Guide we are going to discuss heart attack, signs that will say you’re having a heart attack, symptoms of having a mild or massive heart attack, states during a heart attack in different body parts. What is the current medication to a heart patient and what should you do if you think you’re having a heart attack?

Then we will talk about neck pain, what causes neck pain, what are the risk factors of neck pain and the things about neck pain that is might be related to a heart attack.

Is Neck Pain a Sign of a Heart Attack: A Comprehensive Guide

Shocking Statistics on Neck Pain

According to NCBI and Jospt, at any given time 70%-75% of the population will experience neck pain in their lives. [1][2]

It is so strange to think that, up to 1 in 5 individuals are experiencing neck pain right now, with 54% of people having had neck pain in the last 6 months.

In the US, neck pain ranks 2nd in annual workers’ compensation costs. In Sweden, the numbers are even more telling- 18% of all disability payments are for neck and shoulder related problems. [2]

According to research, 5% of neck pain sufferers will become disabled as a result, unable to work or function normally as a result. [2]

Women consistently report more neck pain than men, especially musculoskeletal pain. 30% of patients who have neck pain will develop chronic symptoms.

According to the American Medical Association | AMA low back and neck pain rank 3rd in total healthcare costs in the US annually, coming in at a staggering $86 billion dollars.

In the US, chiropractors are estimated to treat over 35 million patients annually. Neck pain ranks as the 2nd most common reason for all chiropractic visits after back pain, comprising 24% of all visits. source

Just over 20% of U.S. adults had arthritic conditions (22.1%) or lower back pain (20.3%). A smaller percentage of persons reported having non-arthritic joint pains or other joint conditions (17.5%) and neck pain or problems (14.3%), and an even smaller percentage had sciatica (9.8%). Source: by TC Clarke – ‎Cited by 15 – ‎Related articles

Our neck, also called the cervical spine, supports the full weight of your head, which is on average about 12 pounds (5.44kg). Surprisingly, another strange fact is that, when the neck is bent forward, the weight on the cervical spine can be as much as 60 pounds, depending on the degree at which the neck is tilted.

While the neck being one of the most important parts of your body, you may don’t give it that much importance as it requires! Well, not until something goes terribly wrong with it!

Although a random pain in your neck or a little soreness doesn’t refer to a serious medical issue, you should know the rare exceptions where you may go through a Cervical artery dissection.

As the neck carries our heaviest and most important body part, Head and it also connects the heart and the brain, It can play a major role or contain a symptom during a heart attack. In this article, we are going to discuss heart attack and the things about neck pain that is might be related to it. 

Is Neck Pain a Sign of a Heart Attack

Is Neck Pain A Sign Of A Heart Attack
Is Neck Pain A Sign Of A Heart Attack

Neck pain usually attacks due to neck muscle fatigue and strain. But sometimes neck pain is a sign of a heart attack. Neck pain occurred due to poor posture during sleep, sitting in a position for too long, etc. If neck pain is more than muscle fatigue and strain then it might be due to heart disease

Heart Attack at 35

How common is a heart attack at 35? Can a 35 year old have a heart attack?

Nausea, cold sweat, shortness of breath, indigestion dizziness, fatigue, heartburn or abdominal pain are the silent signs of a heart attack. Sometimes, tightness, pain, or a squeezing, feeling pressure on neck, jaw or back can occur at any time.

Research has shown that the rate of heart attack in the U.S. has declined in recent decades among 35– to 75-year-olds.

How many people in the U.S. have a heart attack?

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the most common type of heart disease, killing over 370,000 people annually. Every year about 735,000 Americans have a heart attack. Of these, 525,000 are a first heart attack and 210,000 happen in people who have already had a heart attack. Source

Early Signs of Heart disease

When you are having these signs and symptoms, don’t overlook and pay attention to them. See a heart specialist if possible:

  • Chest pain is the most classic and well-known symptom that you have a heart problem that may drive you to a heart attack someday.
  • If you have a stomach burning or indigestion or pain in the passageway to the stomach from your throat, it’s maybe a sign of your heart affecting the  Gullet.
  • Sweating is not a big deal in general, but feeling too hot and getting clammy sweat with chest pain can be a big sign of heart disease. [Source: American Heart Association]
  • If you’re feeling a strong gripping or cramping over your calves or the arms (Especially if the left arm), they might indicate Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD).
  • If you are getting a Choking sensation or as we call it Angina, and if this continues along with some other symptoms, Call 000 or see a cardiac doctor 
  • Irregular heartbeat directly refers to a heart problem that might even be in a harmful stage and it might be Atrial fibrillation which can lead to a stroke.

Mini Heart Attack Symptoms 

When you are getting a mild or mini heart attack, these symptoms may occur. Be quick to respond if you confront any of these:

  • Chest discomfort: Constant discomfort in your chest, Usually goes in the center of your chest. But, not all the discomforts refer to a heart attack, Beware when It comes and lasts for more than minutes or if it comes and goes. It will feel like squeezing inside, uncomfortable fullness, pain, or unusual pressure inside.
  • Neck or jaw pain: You may feel uncomfortable pain in your neck. You’ll feel tightness on a major artery that goes through the neck and there’s unusual pain with it. You may lose control over your jaw and it may feel heavier than usual. 
  • Arm, back, shoulder discomfort: When a mild or massive heart attack occurs, you may come short of breath, A cold sweat on your back is a common thing at this stage, you’ll feel dizzy and your shoulders and arms may squeeze and lose control over them. You may also become faint or near fainting. Vomiting, lightheadedness are common as well.

Source: American Heart Association 

Blood pressure during a heart attack

Too much decrease in your blood pressure or too much increase in it can be a major sign of a heart attack or a stroke! Hypotension (low blood pressure) is an often seen symptom of a severe heart attack. It happens because the artery is completely or partially blocked and your heart cannot pump enough blood due to that or some tissue damage. If the blood pressure doesn’t decrease all of a sudden, it might just act normal in most cases. But for some people, it might even increase! It’s actually Hypertension

If you have a consistent  Hypertension Stage 1 (Blood pressure consistently ranges from 130-139 systolic or 80-89 mm Hg diastolic), it means you are having a risk of possible heart attack or stroke. But if you are facing a Hypertension crisis where your blood pressure readings suddenly exceed 180/120 mm Hg and it continues for more than 5 minutes, and you experience any controlling problem on any organ like shortness of breath, difficulty in speaking or change in vision, Be sure to Call 911 and reach out for an ambulance. Source: American Heart Association

Pre heart attack symptoms (female)

If you are a woman and having these symptoms in your body, Beware of a heart problem.

  • Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing pain in the center of your chest, fullness, and if it lasts more than a few minutes and the pain keeps coming back again and again.
  • When you are having shortness of breath or choking, this could happen with or without chest pain or discomfort. 
  • If you feel pain or unusual discomfort on your Neck, jaw, stomach, back, spine, or on the arm(s). You may lose control over these organs and they may try to squeeze in. 
  • When you are breaking out all of a sudden and getting cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness. This particular sign is more likely to happen with a woman. 

Dr.Nieca Goldberg
Dr.Nieca Goldberg

“Although men and women can experience chest pressure that feels like an elephant sitting across the chest, women can experience a heart attack without chest pressure, Instead they may experience shortness of breath, pressure or pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen, dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, upper back pressure or extreme fatigue,” said Nieca Goldberg, an American Heart Association volunteer and M.D., medical director for the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health at NYU’s Langone Medical Center. 

Source: American Heart Association

# Can neck and lower back pain be related?

4 signs of a heart attack feet

  1. Getting edema in your lower legs and feet: Before a heart attack, you may get Edema in your lower legs, feet, ankles. When it happens, your shoes will feel light because of the swelling.
  2. Purple or Blue colored skin: When you’re warm but you are getting a blue or purple skin, your blood isn’t getting enough oxygen. The medical name of blue toe syndrome is Cyanosis, happens when one or more blood vessel is blocked, either in the heart muscles or around it. 
  3. Painful lumps in toes, fingers: If you have infective endocarditis (a heart infection), Some painful bumps or lumps may appear on the fingers of your feet, in the toes or both.
  4. Peripheral artery disease: Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a disease when cholesterol and plaque in the arteries, and it can cause discomfort in walking. It directly refers to a cardiovascular problem relating to heart problems.

Heart Attack Treatment

There are three types of a heart attack: 

  1. STEMI (ST segment elevation myocardial infarction)
  2. NSTEMI (non-ST segment elevation myocardial infarction)
  3. unstable angina or coronary spasm


There are different diagnosis types and different treatments for different types of attacks.

But, to give you a quick grasp, the most common heart attack treatments are: 

  • Angioplasty: With this treatment, a special tubing will be threaded up to the coronary arteries which are attached to a deflated balloon, then stretch wide the blocked part of the artery.
  • Angioplasty, Laser: It’s almost similar to the Angioplasty process, but in this case, there will be a laser tip attached to the tube to open up the blocked artery.
  • Stent procedure: It’s a wire mesh tube that is used to prop open a diseased artery while performing Angioplasty.
  • Bypass surgery: With this process, there will be a new passageway replacing the blocked artery for blood flow to your heart muscle.
  • Replace the heart valve with an artificial one: In this case, the damaged or abnormal heart valve is replaced with a new one.
  • Minimally invasive heart surgery: You can call it an alternative to bypass surgery where it’s done by robotic hands with minimal blood loss, lower risk, short-time treatment. 
  • Atherectomy: Just like Angioplasty, attaching a rotating shaver to the tip of the catheter to cut off the blockage from the artery.
  • Cardiomyoplasty: It’s an experimental process to take skeletal muscles from the abdomen or back of the patient. 
  • Heart Transplant: In this process, the damaged or diseased heart will be removed and replaced with a healthy human heart from a donation.
  • Radiofrequency ablation: With this process, an electrode is attached to the tip of a catheter inserted into the vein targeting the diseased heart muscle cells to carefully destroy them. 
  • Transmyocardial revascularization: During this treatment, some holes directly to the pumping chamber of your heart will be done from the outside of your chest.

Source: American Heart Association

What does heart attack arm pain feel like

When you are having a heart attack and a severe pain in your arm (Left arm most of the time), Some specific feelings will come up. You will get an arm pain all of a sudden and the pain will rise to intense level within just a few minutes. Heavy pressure on the arteries in the arm is felt. Along with that, your fingers will try to squeeze in and you won’t have much control over it. This happens because the heart cannot pump the blood appropriately. 

What is neck pain?

Neck pain is a state of the neck when the neck muscles are strained or any other parts like the ligaments, bones are treated unusually like a long bad posture can cause inflammation or injury to your neck. A good example is when you’ve fallen from above, hitting your upper torso when the Cervical disks absorb shock between the bones. And all these are not really that much serious medical issue and usually relieved in a few days.

But when it comes to heart disease discussion, Neck pain is referred to when Getting a tear to a major blood vessel in the neck. It leads you to a potential heart attack.

Neck pain causes

There are a lot of reasons that can cause neck pain. Some of them are harmless, some are the absolute opposite, deadly. I’ll consider mentioning the less harmful once first.

  • Muscle fatigue and strain: Neck pain may occur due to Muscle fatigue sourced by heavy activities, poor posture during sleep, sitting in a position for too long without changing posture, heavy jerking to your neck during workouts, etc. 
  • Injury: Our neck is the one that lifts the heaviest thing in our body, the HEAD! If you somehow fall, confront a car accident, injury during sports activities that neck bones are fractured, damaged. Or if the spinal cord hurts, You may end up having a serious neck injury!
  • Meningitis: Meningitis is an inflammation of the tissue around the brain and spinal cord. People with meningitis suffer from stiff neck, fever or headache. This can be a fatal and an emergency medical issue.
  • Heart attack: If you are having a heart attack, it’s pretty likely to have serious neck pain, But make sure you have other symptoms as well if you want to justify it a heart attack. the other often-seen symptoms are A cold sweat, arm or jaw pain and strain, vomiting, shortness of breath, too high or low blood pressure, nausea, etc.

Neck Pain Symptoms

These are commonly seen symptoms of neck pain:

  • Sharp pain: A sharp pain usually takes place in the lower part of the neck. During a sharp pain, the pain will be localized to a single spot and it will feel like a stabbing or sharp digging into that area. you cannot move the neck much.
  • Normal soreness: It is not similar to a sharp 
  • Stiff neck: Having a Stiff neck is more of a position where you cannot move or turn the neck from side to side. It will feel like the neck is locked in a bone. This difficulty of moving the neck comes with pain and soreness.
  • Radiating pain: This kind of pain can radiate from the neck to the shoulds. This pain takes place into the nerves around these areas and you may feel a burning or searing sensation depending on the intensity level of the pain. 
  • Weakness or Numbness: The radiating painful sensation can also take place beyond the neck, jaw. It may spread around the arms and fingers as well. It usually happens to one of your hands, not both at the same time. This situation is referred to Cervical Radiculopathy
  • Headache: If the muscles and nerves in the neck that are connected to the head go through an irritation, neck pain can take place. Muscle tightening or occipital neuralgia is the most common situation that can be mentioned here.

What are the risk factors for neck pain?

Although neck pain is a common physical distress at the young stage of life, Studies have been done due to the importance of identifying risk factors among young adults to possibly prevent oversaturated neck pain later in their life.

  • Study on physical risk factors: A study was carried out on 684 healthy undergraduate students using standardized physical examination and self-administered questionnaires. The examination data were collected at 3, 6, 9 and 12 months following all the incidence of neck pain. Among the students, who reported neck pain on ≥ 2 consecutive follow-ups, they were categorized as a carrier of persistent or chronic neck pain. 

Source of the study: BMC Public Health

As a result, 33% of them reported persistent neck pain from 46% of the participants who reported the onset of neck pain at an early stage of the study.  And they also reported that the reason for the onset and persistent neck pain caused by a computer screen not positioned appropriately and the posture for sitting in front of the computer wasn’t ideal.

  • An alarming nationwide effect: Neck pain is a very common physical discomfort among the adults in the US, affecting 14 to 71% of the adults at some point of their lives. [Source] And a substantial 19-37% of the neck pain patients develop long term chronic neck pain [Source].
  • Economical hazard: Neck pain can cause severe discomfort to the body and possibly disability at work and brings an impaired quality of life. The economic consequences of treating neck pain patients are significantly high as well [Source]. 
  • Costing billions: It’s been claimed that the total yearly cost of upper limbs and neck symptoms in the Netherlands was 2.1 billion Euros due to sick leave, chronic disability at work, decreased productivity and medical costs.

What are the potential complications of neck pain?

Although a normal neck pain caused by a minor hit or a bad posture doesn’t really call you to serious medical attention. But, If Cervical artery dissection takes place and it stays for more than a few minutes, be sure to call 911. There are some potential complications of serious neck pain.

  • Nerve injury: Nerves around the neck can be injured if a neck pain goes high and affect the nerves.
  • Damage to the vocal cords: You have vocal cords to talk with that are connected to your neck. If neck pain or injury goes out of control, the vocal cords are in danger! 
  • Spinal Cord Injury: There are radiators around your spinal cord and neck to the arms, fingers to legs. If the neck comes in pain or injury, those radiating parts could be in danger!
  • Blood clots: When A major artery in the neck gets clogged, it may create blood clots to the cardiovascular arteries around the heart muscles.
  • Heart attack: An obvious potential complication of neck pain is a heart attack. When your brain cannot stay connected to the heart due to a clogged artery in the neck, the heart fails to pump.
  • Brain hemorrhage: When your heart cannot pump blood and other important nutrients to the brain, the brain also fails to free out the blood and other things out of the skull, then you end up facing a brain hemorrhage.


What does neck pain from a heart attack feel like?

During a heart attack, you will most likely be feeling very uncomfortable irritation on the neck muscles and they will try to squeeze in. High pressure on the upper spine, cramping is often-seen signs of neck discomfort or pain during a heart attack. 

Is neck and shoulder pain a sign of a heart attack?

“Often patients, particularly women, will experience pain in the shoulder, arms, neck, and jaw, or between the shoulder blades, While it may seem like a pain in these areas is not related to the heart, it actually is quite common,” said Robert Rogers, MSN, ACNP-BC. 

Source: Norton Healthcare 

What are the 4 signs of an impending heart attack?

The 4 main and major signs of an impending heart attack are:

  • Squeezing, pressuring and feeling too heavy in the center of your chest for more than a few minutes.
  • Neck pain including jaw, back and sometimes, stomach discomfort.
  • Shortness in breathing and choking for a few minutes.
  • Vomiting along with chest discomfort and cold sweat.

Source: Penn Medicine

Can neck problems affect your eyes?

Yes. It can lead to headaches or problems with your vision, the vision can be blurred or you can face focusing difficulty.

Am I having a heart attack (female quiz)

Is a chest pain always refers to heart disease: NO.

Right side chest pain is related to a heart problem: YES

People suffering from anxiety disorders can suffer from chest pain: YES

Chest pain can be caused by Stress: YES

A heart attack happens with sudden chest pain: NO

Before a heart attack, there will be shortness of breath, cold sweat, fatigue, vomiting, etc: YES

If you have chest pain and other signs of a heart attack, Call 911 right away. 

Is neck pain a sign of a stroke?

When a cervical artery dissection occurs, there is a chance for you to go into a stroke. Although the statistics say there are only 2 in 100,000 people who confront this situation. But the chance is still there and increasing! “Over the past two decades, awareness of cervical artery dissection has grown tremendously,” says Dr. Natalia Rost, associate professor of neurology at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. 

Source: Harvard Medical School 

Why does my artery in my neck hurt?

The major arteries in your neck supply blood, oxygen, and nutrients between your brain and heart. When the arteries hurt, most of the time it’s because of a clog in a major artery there. If it hurts too much for more than a few minutes, it’s maybe because the heart cannot function and work with the brain which can lead you to a stroke. 

Can neck pain be a sign of something serious?

If you are getting neck pain that lasts for more than a few minutes, it’s better for you to see a cardiac doctor as soon as possible. Because, one of the reasons why neck pain takes place, is a clog in the heart so it cannot pump enough blood to the brain that can lead to a stroke.

What are the symptoms of a blocked artery in your neck?   

  • When you are feeling sudden weakness in the upper limbs, jaw, head, and neck.
  • When you suddenly feel troubled speaking or hearing.
  • If you suddenly lose clear eyesight, it can be to one eye or both.
  • If you suddenly lose control over your jawline or the shoulder and lose balance

Can neck pain be a sign of cancer?

Although usual neck pain isn’t always there as a sign of cancer, continuous and persistent neck pain can be a sign of neck or head cancer. There will be bumps and lumps around the neck and head. Other signs you may face are continuous throat and facial pain, numbness on the head and neck, Swelling and pain in the jaw or chin area.

What causes neck pain on the left side?

When you are having pain on the left side of your neck, there are many possible causes to that Such as A regular Inflammation, Muscle strain or fatigue, Ripped nerve, Fibromyalgia, Or Heart attack!

Heart attack quiz- Go to link

Heart disease and heart attack quiz

Heart Attack Quiz – Symptoms and What You Should Do

Heart Quiz: Heart Attacks and Cardiovascular Disease


The bottom line is, If you are suffering from neck pain, that doesn’t just mean that you have heart disease, It might even be caused by last night’s sleep when you were laying on your neck without giving it a proper support!  or some other cause like anything may have gone rough to the neck can cause neck pain as well. Don’t panic if that’s the case.

But if you are suffering from neck pain for a long time and didn’t have a little reason like I mentioned above, be sure to see a cardiac doctor who can suggest to you what it is or what should you do. You can call 911 and seek assistance as well. Best wishes for your happy life! 



The research was taken from Dr. Marshall Emig, MD

Read More:

Warning Signs of a Heart Attack – American Heart Association


Heart Attack Neck Pain | Heart Attack Warning Signs 


Women: Don’t Ignore These 3 Subtle Heart Attack Symptoms


Could Neck, Jaw or Back Pain Signal a Heart Attack?


Heart attack symptoms and signs | The Heart Foundation


When a pain in the neck is serious – Harvard Health


11 Possible Heart Symptoms You Shouldn’t Ignore – WebMD


Heart Attack Symptoms and Warning Signs – HonorHealth


Patient Comments: Heart attack – Symptoms – Viewers Share

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