Chest Pain – Not Necessarily Caused By Heart Problems

At one point or another in our lives we will all experience chest pain that may be either severe or mild. When this happens, we often relate it to heart problems.

Chest pain may be caused by multiple conditionsHowever you will be relieved to know that the most common cause for chest pains in the western world is not due to angina or heart attacks[1].

That is NOT to say you shouldn’t talk to a doctor immediately if you experience chest pain. There is a reason why you will be expedited through an emergency room with great speed if you show up complaining of chest pains – it could very well be a serious condition requiring immediate medical attention.

However there are many other causes of this pain besides heart problems that are common in our daily lives.

The main cause of chest pain in western society is a misalignment of the ribcage[2],[3] . Once you experience the pain that comes from misalignment of the ribcage, you may possibly relate it to having a heart attack.

In fact, ribcage misalignment can cause chest pain that may become more severe with time and closely mimic symptoms of a heart attack. In some cases the pain is experienced as a dull ache, a pressing weight that makes you feel like there is an elephant sitting on your chest. It may even radiate at the back, making this pain very difficult to differentiate from an actual heart attack.

Other times it is a sharp stabbing pain, often caused by a condition called costochondritis[4],[5],[6] – an inflammation of the cartilage at the point where your rib is attached to the sternum. Costochondritis (pronounced Kos-toe-con-dri-tis) may be painful, but is completely benign – at worst, costochondritis will sprain your tongue while trying to pronounce it, but it is definitely not a life-threatening condition.

If you consulted a chiropractor about your chest pain, you may hear him or her say that you “took your rib out”. That’s not Latin, and in case you’re wondering how a rib can be “taken out”, here is a short lesson in human anatomy.

The ribs are made up of rather flexible bones that are connected to the spine on the back, and to the breastbone (sternum) on the front. The points where ribs connect aren’t made out of a solid bone material, but of soft cartilage tissue. This allows your chest to freely expand and contract while you breathe without making your ribs painfully clang like chimes in the wind.

However, as we age, this cartilage hardens and some movement is naturally lost. This is a normal part of aging that everyone goes through. In fact, due to hardening of the cartilage and fusing of adjacent bones, we “lose” 144 bones throughout our body between the time we’re born and the time our body matures through adulthood. That’s by no means a small number.

This loss of mobility is the most frequent cause of ribcage misalignment (a condition referred to by medical professionals as having a “rib out”) and a resulting chest pain in young adults.

In any case, a simple chiropractic adjustment, or a series of adjustments, can restore the alignment taking the pain away and allowing the body to heal.

Chiropractic is common in the treatment of chest pain and many doctors will recommend it after any life-threatening conditions have been ruled out[7].

References:

[1] Mette J Stochkendahl: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2474/9/40
[2] Christopher M Wise, MD: http://www.uptodate.com/contents/major-causes-of-musculoskeletal-chest-pain?source=search_result&search=costochondritis&selectedTitle=1~38
[3] Eric A .Lane, DC: http://www.drericlane.com/services/chestpain.html
[4] Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/costochondritis/DS00626/DSECTION=symptoms
[5] Richard N. Fogoros, M.D.: http://heartdisease.about.com/cs/coronarydisease/a/CP1.htm
[6] ISIS: http://www.isischiropractic.co.uk/chiropractic_rib_pain.html
[7] Polkinghorn BS, Colloca CJ.: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12584509

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