What Does Heartburn Feel Like?
Learn how to identify the symptoms.
Although different things may trigger heartburn, most people experience similar heartburn symptoms. Knowing what heartburn feels like and recognizing the symptoms you experience sooner can lead to earlier treatment—and relief.
The most common symptom of heartburn is often described as an uncomfortable or painful "burning" sensation in the chest.1 You may also experience pressure or pain just behind the breastbone. The pain may worsen when lying down or bending over, and it can last minutes or continue for a few hours.
Other common symptoms include the feeling that food is “sticking” in your chest or throat, a sour or acid taste in the back of your throat, discomfort that gets worse after eating, as well as burping and/or bloating.2
There are more uncommon heartburn symptoms you may not know: persistent hiccups, pain that radiates to your neck and shoulders, and finding it difficult or painful to swallow.2 Although rare, cold sweat, shortness of breath, light-headedness or dizziness may accompany heartburn. If these symptoms occur, you should discuss them with your doctor right away to determine the heartburn treatment options available to you, and to ensure you do not have a more serious condition.
Consult a healthcare professional if you have difficulty swallowing, your heartburn often occurs more than once a week, your symptoms become more severe over time and/or continue even with the use of heartburn medications.3 Talk to your doctor if you are using over-the-counter heartburn medications longer than the label recommends, you still get heartburn even after taking prescription or non-prescription medications, or your symptoms are interfering with your lifestyle or daily activities.
Because heartburn symptoms are felt in a similar area, some people can confuse the pain of heartburn with a heart attack. If you're unsure whether you're suffering from heartburn or having a heart attack, seek medical attention right away.
- "Understanding Heartburn -- the Basics." WebMD. Ed. Melinda Ratini. N.p., n.d. Web. <https://www.webmd.com/heartburn-gerd/guide/understanding-heartburn-basics>.
- Balentine, Jerry R. "Heartburn (Acid Reflux): Symptoms, Relief, Remedies & Causes." MedicineNet. Ed. Bhupinder S. Anand. N.p., n.d. Web. <https://www.medicinenet.com/heartburn_reflux/article.htm>.
- "When to Call the Doctor About Heartburn or Reflux." WebMD. Ed. Jennifer Robinson. N.p., n.d. Web. <https://www.webmd.com/heartburn-gerd/when-call-doctor>.