Chest pain and jaw pain can occur simultaneously. These symptoms can sometimes indicate a heart issue, such as an episode of angina or a heart attack. However, they may have unrelated causes.
This article describes the causes of combined chest and jaw pain and some conditions that can cause each symptom in isolation.
It also discusses how doctors diagnose the cause of chest and jaw pain, risk factors for a heart attack, and advice about when to consult a healthcare professional.
Chest and jaw pain may occur due to problems with the heart, such as the following.
The box below describes the symptoms of a heart attack and what to do if a person experiences them.
Is it a heart attack?
Heart attacks occur when there is a lack of blood supply to the heart. Symptoms include:
- chest pain, pressure, or tightness
- pain that may spread to arms, neck, jaw, or back
- nausea and vomiting
- sweaty or clammy skin
- heartburn or indigestion
- shortness of breath
- coughing or wheezing
- lightheadedness or dizziness
- anxiety that can feel similar to a panic attack
If someone has these symptoms:
- Dial 911 or the number of the nearest emergency department.
- Stay with them until the emergency services arrive.
If a person stops breathing before emergency services arrive, perform manual chest compressions:
- Lock fingers together and place the base of hands in the center of the chest.
- Position shoulders over hands and lock elbows.
- Press hard and fast, at a rate of 100–120 compressions per minute, to a depth of 2 inches.
- Continue these movements until the person starts to breathe or move.
- If needed, swap over with someone else without pausing compressions.
Use an automatic external defibrillator (AED) available in many public places:
- An AED provides a shock that may restart the heart.
- Follow the instructions on the defibrillator or listen to the guided instructions.
Learn about the risk of heart attack according to age.
Angina is chest pain or discomfort that occurs when the heart does not receive enough oxygen-rich blood. It is a symptom of an underlying disease, such as coronary heart disease.
Angina may feel like pressure or a squeezing sensation in the chest, and the pain may radiate to other parts of the body, such as:
- the back
- the shoulders and arms
- the neck and jaw
Below are some conditions that may cause chest pain without jaw pain.
Heartburn and acid reflux
Heartburn is a burning sensation in the chest due to acid reflux. This is where stomach acid leaks out of the stomach and into the esophagus, which is the food pipe.
Learn more about acid reflux.
A panic attack is a symptom of panic disorder (PD). The
Intercostal muscle strains
Muscle strains can cause musculoskeletal chest pain, often due to injury or overuse.
Intercostal muscle strains can cause chest muscle strain. The intercostal muscles sit between the ribs and help expand and contract the chest cavity, allowing a person to breathe.
Intercostal muscle strain typically causes pain or tenderness of the affected muscles, which may worsen when breathing in deeply or coughing.
Below are some potential causes of jaw pain without chest pain.
Temporomandibular disorders (TMDs)
TMDs are a group of conditions affecting the joints and muscles of the jaw, resulting in jaw pain and dysfunction.
According to the
Possible signs and symptoms of TMDs
- pain in the jaw, which may radiate to the face and neck
- jaw stiffness and locking
- painful clicking, grating, or popping sensations in the jaw when opening or closing the mouth
- limited range of movement in the jaw
- changes in the way the top and bottom jaw fit together
- ear problems, such as tinnitus or hearing loss
- headaches or dizziness
Learn about temporomandibular joint disorders.
Trigeminal neuralgia (TN) is a severe stabbing or electric shock-like pain that typically affects the lower face and jaw. It can also affect the area around the nose and above the eyes.
According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS), TN occurs due to irritation to the trigeminal nerve, which branches to the forehead, cheek, and lower jaw. The pain can begin suddenly, with initial attacks being short and mild but becoming longer and more intense over time.
TN may cause the following types of pain in the jaw and other parts of the face:
The following dental issues may cause pain that radiates to the jaw:
If a person presents with chest and jaw pain, doctors may want to rule out a heart condition. In nonemergency situations, the diagnostic procedure will typically involve a physical examination and questions about the following:
- symptoms, including when they started
- risk factors for heart disease
- a family history of heart disease and other cardiovascular conditions
Other diagnostic tests may
- EKG: An EKG monitors the heart’s electrical activity and can detect issues such as atypical heart rhythms and heart attacks.
- Blood tests: Blood tests can measure levels of certain proteins in the bloodstream, which can indicate heart damage. For example, levels of the protein troponin may increase following a heart attack.
- Heart imaging tests: Imaging tests, such as chest X-rays and CT scans, can indicate whether the heart is functioning properly.
A person experiencing heart attack symptoms needs immediate medical attention. The sooner they receive appropriate treatment, the less heart damage they are likely to endure and the greater their likelihood of survival.
People should also contact a doctor if they have chest and jaw pain and risk factors for heart disease. A doctor may recommend diagnostic tests or preventive measures to help reduce the risk of a heart attack.
Combined chest and jaw pain can signal an issue with the heart, such as an episode of angina or a heart attack. Anyone experiencing these symptoms needs to seek immediate medical attention.
Chest pain and jaw pain often occur in isolation. Factors that can cause chest pain without jaw pain include heartburn, panic attacks, and intercostal muscle strain.
Factors that can cause jaw pain without chest pain include TMDs, TN, and dental issues.
Anyone with risk factors for heart disease or other concerns about their heart health needs to speak with a doctor for further advice and guidance.