When chest pain isn’t a heart attack, it’s time to visit a chiropractor. Here’s why.

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When chest pain occurs, especially in someone middle-aged, the first thing most of us think of is that we are having a heart attack.   True, it is scary and you will feel better having it ruled out at the emergency room of your local hospital. Statistically, only about 5% of those visits for chest pain actually are heart attacks, with the majority being muscle spasms, dysfunction of the rib cage, or even leg and back problems that cause the ribs to distort, affecting our breathing and ability to move.

Those ER visits are scary and costly, with the higher risk of other complications of infection by MRSA and other problems just from the visit alone.  Let's also not forget the trauma caused by the ER bill that often is paid against your yearly deductible in most plans these days.

Those who have had cardiac surgery are more likely to have chest pain simply because opening and closing the chest cavity will cause problems with the rib heads in the front, and possibly those in the back of the shoulders as well.   Believe it or not, a chiropractor is likely the only healthcare provider with the skill set to restore motion to the ribs and the spinal joints that are affected by procedures like this, since they understand how to restore normal movement to the area, frequently offering fast relief after a chiropractic adjustment. Open heart surgery not only affects the ribs, both in the front and the back where they attach but the fascia, the connective tissue that controls movement is also affected.  The skillset of most chiropractors is uniquely qualified to work with these areas and the soft tissues that surround them with manipulation and myofascial release treatment.

Most patients are sent home from the E.R. with a diagnosis of nonspecific chest pain or are simply told muscle spasms with little other guidance than to follow up with their family doctor who understands little about the musculoskeletal system or the ribs.

Statistically, 95% of those with chest pain are not having a heart attack, so they require a different approach to evaluation and treatment that is hands-on and holistic in its understanding of how body mechanics can cause chest pain.

Should they visit other medical specialists first to rule out rare problems, or perhaps, visit a chiropractor trained in the management of spinal, extremity, and motion disorders of the most common body?

Recently, we had a patient who had chest pain for months, after having a bad flu-like experience, and none of his medical providers were able to resolve his chest pain, which made it impossible to sleep in his bed.   Eventually, it was the less expensive and safe chiropractic approach using manipulation and myofascial release that finally has improved his condition.

Rib and chest pains can be caused by

  1. Lower back problems affecting the ribs.
  2. Asthma and bronchitis, which cause you to breathe with more effort.
  3. Frozen shoulder or shoulder capsule problems.  These problems may show up initially as the neck being tight and kinked up all the time.
  4. Open heart surgery will affect rib alignment when they open the chest up and then use wire or some other substance to hold the front of the chest closed as it heals.  These procedures are notorious for causing rib problems which may at times mimic angina.  Heart patients have a good reason to be afraid of angina post-surgery, but your doctor may not realize that rib misalignment is the cause of your pain.

Non-invasive cost-effective solutions that can resolve your chest pain

Chiropractic medicine is the logical choice.  Since the rib cage is mechanical, it requires a mechanical solution.   By using manipulation to restore mobility to the ribs and vertebra, and by looking at the body as a whole, a chiropractor has the knowledge and skills to restore motion, remove tension on the rib cage caused by other parts of the body and resolve the condition safely, and cost-effectively.

Recently, the British Medical Journal published a study on how effective chiropractors were in treating musculoskeletal chest pain vs. self-management (1).   The truth is, this condition is much more common than most patients and doctors realize, and most people who are having chest pain are likely to be helped through chiropractic methods than other means.

The study concluded "Chiropractic care was more cost-effective than self-management. Therefore, chiropractic care can be seen as a good example of a targeted primary care approach for a subgroup of patients with non-specific chest pain."

Often, most doctors never consider referring to a chiropractor for problems such as chest pain, because they simply have never been exposed to what a chiropractor does but they know many of their patients get relief by visiting a chiropractor.  Often, patients self-refer and get relief.

Sometimes, doctors refer to what their patients visit chiropractors already know; chiropractors help them feel better.

1. Cost-effectiveness of chiropractic care versus self-management in patients with musculoskeletal chest pain
Mette Jensen Stochkendahl,1 Jan Sørensen,2 Werner Vach,3 Henrik Wulff Christensen,1 Poul Flemming Høilund-Carlsen,4 Jan Hartvigsen1,5