I want to start off with this; if you think you’re having a heart attack or think you might be, go to the emergency room or call 911 and be sure. Do not wait to call, the sooner you receive help the better chances you have for a full recovery.
With that said, 80% of all chest pain is musculoskeletal in origin. That means it’s being caused by a problem with the muscles, bones or joints.
Some people with chest pain find there is a problem with the musculature around the chest. Typically the pectoralis minor is the culprit and a tendonitis or a strain of this muscle can mimic angina and/or a heart attack by reproducing chest pain and pain radiating down the left arm. Some physical therapy, i.e. massage, stretching and ultrasound, will work to clear this type of problem. Physical therapists are specially trained to treat muscle strains and tendonitis problems.
The most common non heart related problem for chest pain is a dysfunction of a damaged joint in your spine and/or with one or more of your ribs. When the nerves leave your spine in the area of your chest, they follow a course along the underside of the rib and can cause pain anywhere along the way. Often the rib or vertebra (bone in the spine) is displaced from its proper alignment and can cause pain (sometimes terrible pain) at the sternum or breast bone. When this is the cause of the problem you need to see a chiropractor. Chiropractors are specially trained to determine the cause of non heart related chest pain and can treat this cause of the condition well.
An easy way to tell if it’s the bone or muscle is to stretch your chest in a doorway by placing both hands on the door jamb and leaning through the door. If it’s the muscle pain will be increased in the upper and outer portion of your chest near the shoulder. If it’s the bone, the pain might increase somewhere else or not change at all.
Remember to see your cardiologist or general medical practitioner to be sure your heart is not causing your chest pain. If they clear you then seek out the help of a different type of practitioner that best fits your needs.
Dr. John G. Vilkelis