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Back pain and heart disease

Updated February 21, 2017

Back pain can be a warning sign of heart trouble. Most people associate problems of the heart with chest pain, so when back pain presents as a symptom they may delay getting help, which can be fatal. Pain can travel and you can feel it in one area when it is actually coming from another. This can also make diagnosing a heart problem from back pain difficult.

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Infection around the heart

Inflammation or infection in the lining or wall of the heart muscle can cause back pain, commonly in the upper- to middle-back area. Pericarditis and endocarditis are two types of this condition.

Aortic aneurysm

Middle-back pain is felt when an aortic aneurysm is present in the part of the aorta that passes through the chest. The pain also can feel like it is coming from the upper-back area.


Back pain is not commonly associated with a heart condition or disease. It is often thought of as an injured muscle as in a pull or a sprain. A patient may let time lapse before seeking proper medical attention. This can be a deadly mistake. An untreated heart condition can be life-threatening if it is not dealt with urgently.


It is a common misconception that the heart is up against your chest and that is why the pain from a heart attack usually affects the chest. Your heart is at about the half-way mark between your chest and your back. This is why heart disease can present with symptoms of pain in either area.


Back pain is a common sign for women when they are having a heart attack. This symptom is also seen in men, but it is more predominant in females. This pain usually occurs in the upper-back area and is commonly described as coming from between the shoulder blades.


Back pain can range from dull to severe when presenting with heart disease. The pain comes from the heart's inability to pump blood through the arteries due to blockage or from the weakness of the heart muscle. A 95 percent blockage of an artery will cause severe pain compared to an artery that is 75 percent obstructed, which might cause low pain or even none at all. When the heart muscle is weak due to disease, it needs to pump harder causing pain. It is very similar from the pain that you would feel trying to use an injured muscle to walk on. Using the muscle hurts, so you rest it. The heart is a muscle that you cannot stop using.

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About the Author

Roz Zurko is a full time freelance writer who lives in Westfield, Massachusetts. She has been writing for 22 years and is published on several internet literary sites and in The Westfield Evening News. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from The University of New Haven and Westfield State College.

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