Acid reflux can cause chest pain so severe it can be confused with a heart attack. Typically, heartburn does not cause shoulder pain, but it can happen. Other issues, such as a gallbladder attack, can also cause radiating chest pain. Yet, anytime chest pain is involved, the question becomes whether the pain is a sign of a heart attack.
How Acid Reflux Causes Chest Pain
Acid reflux occurs when a muscle at the bottom of the oesophagus does not close all the way, allowing stomach acid to leak into the oesophagus. This acid can burn the tissues of the oesophagus, causing pain to radiate up into the chest.
Chest Pain and Heartburn
Heartburn causes a chest pain that typically feels like a sharp, burning sensation just below the breastbone or ribs, that comes shortly after a meal and that responds quickly to antacids. The pain generally does not spread to the shoulders or cause cold sweats and dizziness, but it can.
Chest Pain and Heart Attack
A heart attack causes a chest pain that feels like a fullness, tightness or crushing pressure in the chest. Heart attacks often cause cold sweats and a shortness of breath. The pain also can spread to the shoulders and the arms, often on the left side. Heart attacks can come after exercise or other strenuous physical activities.
Gallbladder and Chest Pain
If there are gallstones blocking the ducts of the gallbladder, the stones can cause a chest pain that moves into the neck, shoulders or arms. The pain typically occurs after a fatty meal.
When You Can't Tell the Difference
If the pain is more severe than you usually experience with heartburn, it could be a heart attack. Sometimes, you can't tell the difference without medical tests. Since a heart attack can be fatal, it is best to go to the emergency room as a precaution.