Chest pain is one of the more common heartburn and acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), symptoms. After eating a big meal or lying down after eating, you may experience a sharp burning pain in your chest that can radiate all the way to your neck. This kind of chest pain can be easily mistaken for the pain produced by angina or a heart attack. Angina is caused by a lack of blood flow to the heart and can feel a lot like heartburn.
When the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the muscle at the bottom of your esophagus, relaxes abnormally or weakens, stomach acid can back up into your esophagus, causing pain in the chest. The lower esophageal sphincter works as a valve, opening to allow food and liquid to flow down into your stomach and closing to keep acid and other material from flowing back up the esophagus. When you eat fatty foods, lie down or bend over, or have excess weight that puts pressure on the sphincter muscle it may open and allow acid to flow back into your esophagus. This pain caused by acid reflux can last for a few minutes or a couple hours and can usually be treated with over-the-counter medications such as antacids, PPIs, also known as proton pump inhibitors, and H2 blockers. If 4 to 8 weeks of twice-daily PPI therapy is unsuccessful, further investigation with endoscopy is recommended.
If you experience this pain for longer than a few minutes along with other symptoms such as dizziness, shortness of breath, or pain that radiates to your shoulders, neck, jaw or arms, you may be experiencing the symptoms of a heart attack and need to seek immediate medical attention. Also seek medical attention immediately if there is any confusion about whether your symptoms are heartburn or a heart attack. There are tests your doctor can perform to determine whether or not you are having a heart attack.