A nurse is warning women that their heart attacks may 'feel different' after she mistook one for 'muscle strain'

Kodchanaka J/ShutterstockA woman (not the one pictured) said she had a heart attack with no chest pain.
  • Twitter user @gwheezie shared a story about a heart attack she first thought was “muscle strain,” Yahoo News reported.
  • She wrote that she never had chest pain. Instead, she had pain in her back, arms, and shoulders, and eventually began vomiting.
  • Though chest pain or discomfort is the most common heart attack symptom, women are more likely than men to experience other symptoms like nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and shortness of breath.
  • These vague signs may be easier to miss or dismiss.

A nurse is warning other women on social media after she suffered a heart attack she thought was just “muscle strain.”

Twitter user @gwheezie recounted the story of her health scare in a thread posted December 9, Yahoo Lifestyle reported Monday.

“I want to warn women our heart attacks feel different,” she wrote. “Last Sunday I had a heart attack. … I’m alive because I called 911. I never had chest pain. It wasn’t what you read in pamphlets. I had it off & on for weeks.”


“The pain ran across my upper back, shoulder blades & equally down both arms,” she continued in the thread. “It felt like burning & aching. I actually thought it was muscle strain. It wasn’t until I broke into drenching sweat & started vomiting that I called 911.”

In the thread, she added that she is a nurse and an “older woman,” though she didn’t specify her age. She said that she had been helping a neighbour clean out a barn and thought the physical exertion had affected her muscles. At first, she took Motrin and tried to sooth the muscle pain with warm pack, she wrote.

Once at an emergency room, @gwheezie was treated with four stents – small tubes used to prop open blocked arteries – and later discharged, she wrote. She did not immediately respond to INSIDER’s request for comment.

As of this writing, the thread’s first tweet has been retweeted more than 36,000 times. It’s also prompted an outpouring of similar anecdotes.

“Same thing happened to me,” Twitter user @lgrandgenett wrote in response to the thread. “Symptoms felt like constant indigestion, for weeks. I went into urgent care asking for a Tums the size of a Volkswagen but they wisely did an EKG and sent me to ER.”


“I’m a healthy 31 year old, mum of 3. Had a heart attack just over a year ago,” Twitter user @RadcliffeSarah wrote. “I didn’t go to the hospital for over a week – I had such bad upper back pain, also thought it was a pulled muscle. I went to my primary care doctor 4 times before she finally sent me to the ER.”


@Gwheezie’s ordeal – and the similar stories shared in response – offer an important takeaway: Heart attacks don’t always cause dramatic chest pain they’re typically associated with.

Heart attacks don’t always cause chest pain, especially for women

Woman nausea vomiting heart attackmichaelheim/ShutterstockNausea and vomiting can be a symptom of heart attacks.

Chest pain and discomfort are the most common heart attack signs for both men and women, but women are more likely to experience other symptoms like shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, unusual tiredness, and pain in the back, shoulders, and jaw, according to the US National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Sweating, dizziness, and lightheadedness may also be associated with heart attacks in women, as INSIDER previously reported.

But people may chalk up more vague symptoms to less life-threatening conditions like the flu or heartburn, the American Heart Association (AHA) notes.

Read more: 7 subtle signs of heart attacks in women

The AHA recommends calling 911 if you experience any heart attack symptoms, even if you’re not feeling chest pain.

And family physician Dr. John Cheng previously told INSIDER that women should tune in to any unusual changes they notice in their bodies.

“It is important to document any symptoms that are unusual for you,” he said. “Many women state that they experience subtle signs weeks to a month prior to the onset of a heart attack. If experiencing any unusual symptoms, make sure to discuss these with someone close to you that may know your family or personal history, or be seen by a medical provider.”

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