Relationship between Headaches and Chest Pain
If you have chest pain and also experience headaches, this section may be of interest to you.
First of all, please understand that we do not under any circumstances diagnose or treat chest pain. In fact, chest pain can be a symptom of very serious conditions involving the heart, the lungs and other organs. Failure to properly diagnose and treat those conditions may lead to death. Consequently, if you or a loved one have chest pain but have not yet been fully evaluated by a medical doctor and followed all of his or her recommendations please do not read further. Go back to your physician, or preferably a cardiologist immediately.
However, if you have already been evaluated extensively and the source of your chest pain has not been found, and you also experience frequent headaches or face pain, the following information may be helpful.
Over the past 30 years or so, many of our patients whom we were treating for headaches or face pain remarked that not only were the problems we were treating resolving, but their chest pain was disappearing as well. It wasn’t long before we added chest pain to the history and discovered that approximately one sixth of the patients had this problem. Many had been to cardiologists and most had been to their physicians or to hospital emergency rooms. Yet in almost every case that we saw, a specific cause for the pain could not be found. That is not to say that the source can never be found, and that is why it is critically important for everyone who has chest pain to seek medical evaluation and treatment, and that is not something which we can do.
Several years ago, we began a statistical study. We discovered that of the last 3,000 patients whom we treated for headaches or face pain, several hundred also had chest pain. Over 90% of these patients reported that their chest pain resolved and almost always, before the head or face pain went away.
How can this be possible? While we cannot tell you with certainty that we know the reason why, we can tell you that it has long been known that pain can be “referred” from one structure to another. Many people are aware that pain felt in the left arm can result from a heart attack often due to spasm of a very important muscle in the chest. It is also well known that a heart attack can result in pain referral to the jaw. Consequently, you won’t be surprised to know that in 1988 when a patient called us complaining of severe face pain, I spoke to him for a few seconds and said, “I’ll be glad to see you–but first go to the hospital. You’re having a heart attack.” He had a triple bypass operation two days later to replace the arteries which were blocked. His cardiologist pointed out that had I not insisted that the pain in his face was actually referred from his chest, he probably would not be alive today. More recently, a woman called from a distant state wanting to make an appointment for examination. I gave her the same advice, to go immediately to a hospital emergency department. Once again, the source of facial pain was a heart attack. There are physical reasons for pain referral, involving specific aspects of the spinal cord and brain. With this understanding in mind, it seems less surprising that the same brain that can cause pain in the chest to be felt in the face, can also cause pain in the face (or head) to be felt in the chest. Let us remind you once again that pain in the chest can result from a serious problem in the chest, which must be evaluated by your medical doctor as early and completely as possible.
Our patients have reported that the pain can be felt in any area of the chest, the quality being sharp or dull, of varying intensities from mild to severe, and lasting from moments to hours at a time. Some patients say that it feels as if an elephant is sitting on their chest; while others say that it feels like a knife is stabbing them. Others describe the pain as much milder.
However, if you have chest pain and your physician and/or cardiologist cannot find the cause after extensive efforts, and you also experience headaches or face pain, it may be appropriate to seek evaluation to determine whether you are likely to benefit from our treatment for the headaches or face pain. While we cannot and do not diagnose or treat chest pain, extensive experience demonstrates that in the vast majority of cases, both will ultimately resolve.
To see more statements from patients who were treated
for headaches with chest pain, please click here.