Numbness in your chest can arrive suddenly and bring about a tingling sensation or the feeling of pins and needles. This sensation can be caused by a number of conditions.

It’s common to think that unusual feelings in their chest might be the sign of a heart attack or stroke. However, if you’re experiencing a heart attack or stroke, you’ll typically have more symptoms than just numbness in the chest.

That said, it’s important to always take unusual chest sensations or pain seriously. Other potential causes, although less serious, still warrant a visit to your doctor.

Numbness in the chest is usually not caused by issues in the brain or spinal cord. It’s most likely the result of irritated or compressed nerves. Numbness and tingling can also be brought on by other health conditions that impact the nervous system.

The following conditions, each with varying degrees of severity, can cause numbness in your chest.

One common symptom of coronary artery disease is angina, which causes a pressure in your chest that can involve burning or numbness. When your heart does not get enough blood or oxygen, it results in a condition called ischemia. Ischemia can cause angina.

The burning or numbness associated with angina may also extend to your back, jaw, neck, or arms. It’s most often experienced by women and older adults. Because angina and a heart attack share similar symptoms, it’s important to seek immediate medical attention.

One of the physical signs of a panic attack is numbness or a tingling sensation, often felt in your chest. These sudden episodes of fear can feel like a heart attack but are not life-threatening

Numbness in your chest from a panic attack is usually accompanied by other symptoms such as a rapid heart rate, shortness of breath, and a tight throat.

If you believe you’re experiencing a panic attack, seek medical attention. Panic attacks can be difficult to manage and they share symptoms of more serious conditions such as a heart attack.

Paresthesia is a tingling, crawling feeling that commonly affects the hands, arms, legs, feet, and, sometimes, the chest. This sensation can occur temporarily if pressure has been placed on your chest, but it’s often a sign of nerve damage.

Chronic paresthesia is usually the result of an underlying neurological disease or severe nerve damage. These symptoms are often felt in the form of conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome. However, they can also be caused by disorders of the central nervous system, including multiple sclerosis.

Though not all unusual sensations in your chest, including numbness, are the result of a serious condition, symptoms should be taken seriously.

Seek medical attention if numbness becomes severe or comes on suddenly. If you believe you may be having a heart attack or stroke, call 911. It’s important to receive treatment quickly.

Signs of a heart attack include:

  • chest discomfort, often a sensation of pressure, squeezing, tightness, or burning
  • shortness of breath
  • discomfort in arm(s) or shoulder
  • discomfort in neck, back, jaw, or stomach
  • nausea or vomiting
  • lightheadedness

Signs of a stroke include:

  • sudden numbness, especially on one side of the body, face, arm, or leg
  • sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • sudden confusion, including trouble understanding or speaking
  • sudden loss of balance or coordination, including trouble walking
  • sudden dizziness
  • sudden intense headache without an identifiable cause

Numbness in your chest can result from a variety of conditions, some of which are symptoms of an underlying condition. Always take unusual chest sensations or pain seriously. Don’t self-diagnose. Your doctor can provide you with a full medical evaluation.

Your doctor may recommend tests such as a chest X-ray, an echocardiogram, which is a heart ultrasound, or a coronary angiogram, which is commonly performed after a heart attack or for angina.

If you think you might be experiencing a heart attack or stroke, call 911.