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Chest Pain: Heart Attack or Something Else

Chest pain is one of the most terrifying pain experiences one can have. The crippling fear brought on by severe pains in the chest, is enough motivation for most persons to seek emergency care. Unfortunately, there is usually a very narrow window, between when someone first experiences the symptoms of a heart attack or pulmonary embolism and when they actually die. Quick and decisive action may be their best chance for survival.


Chest Pain Sources

The causes of chest pain are varied and include the following sources: musculoskeletal (36 - 49 %), cardiac (15 - 18 %), gastrointestinal (8 - 19 %), pulmonary (lung) (5 - 10 %), and psychiatric (8 - 11 %). As can be seen, the vast majority of episodes of chest pain are as a result of a musculoskeletal problem, i.e. originating in muscles, ligaments, tendons or bones.


Heart Attacks and Pulmonary Embolism

Chest pain may be of a cardiac origin and may indicate a heart attack or angina. Angina is chest pain that occurs in persons with coronary artery disease causing a temporary lack of oxygen to the heart. Chest pain may also indicate a pulmonary embolism, which is a blockage of a blood vessel in the lungs. A heart attack or a pulmonary embolism are both life threatening conditions and require immediate emergency intervention. It is important for me to point out that any chest pain should be immediately checked by your medical physician.



Chest pain that is reproducible when manual pressure is applied is usually of a musculoskeletal nature and are typically not life threatening. One of the most common diagnoses for musculoskeletal pain is costochondritis. Costochondritis is a benign and usually temporary condition that causes pain in the cartilage that connects each rib to the sternum, when there is a rib subluxation. The partially displaced or rotated rib places pressure on the cartilage of the chest wall resulting in pain. It may occur as a result of direct physical trauma (seatbelt in a crash or a blow to the chest), strenuous lifting or weight training, or severe bouts of coughing. Sometimes the cause is unknown.

Management of Costochondritis

Costochondritis can be exceptionally painful, many times resulting in a trip to the emergency ward or to the general practitioner. The medical management of costochondritis includes the use of pain medication, anti-inflammatories and sometimes antibiotics.


Non-medicinal management of costochondritis is available with chiropractic. Once the offending rib or ribs are identified, a chiropractic adjustment can then be applied to restore the proper alignment of the rib. The relief in pain is almost immediate. As a Chiropractic Neurologist, who has treated numerous cases of costochondritis, I have observed that the results are usually the same – total or significant pain relief.


If you are suffering from chest pain, talk to your family medical doctor. Once it is determined to be of a musculoskeletal nature, make an appointment to see your family chiropractor. They are the expert in the management of non-emergency musculoskeletal conditions of the body.

The Gleaner , Monday | September 23, 2013

Gardner Chiropractic and Technology, GCN Jamaica, GCN
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