Heart Disease Home > Angina Pain

One of the most common symptoms of angina is pain, which usually affects your chest, shoulders, neck, or back. The causes of this pain vary by type. In stable angina, chest pain occurs when the heart is working harder than usual, which can be caused by physical exertion, emotions, or heavy meals. Pain with unstable angina occurs unexpectedly at rest; with variant angina, it is caused by a spasm in a coronary artery.

What Is Angina Pain?

Angina is chest pain or discomfort that occurs when your heart muscle does not get enough oxygen-rich blood. Angina pain may feel like pressure or a squeezing pain in your chest. The pain may also occur in your shoulders, arms, neck, jaw, or back. It usually lasts two to five minutes.

Types of Angina Pain

The most common types of angina are stable angina and unstable angina. A less common type is called variant angina.
Stable Angina
Stable angina is chest pain or discomfort that occurs when the heart is working harder than usual. This pain goes away when you rest or take your angina medicine. Some examples of situations that trigger an attack of angina pain include:
  • Physical exertion, such as exercise, hurrying, or sexual activity
  • Emotion (stress, anger, frustration, or fright)
  • Exposure to very hot or cold temperatures
  • Heavy meals
  • Smoking.
Unstable Angina
With unstable angina, pain often occurs unexpectedly at rest. It also occurs while sleeping at night or with little physical exertion. This pain is more severe and lasts longer than episodes of stable angina. It is also not relieved by rest or medicine. Unstable angina is a dangerous condition that requires emergency treatment. Pain with unstable angina is a sign that a heart attack could occur soon.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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