Exploring Chiropractic Care for Rib and Chest Pain

Exploring Chiropractic Care for Rib and Chest Pain

Although not all rib and chest pains stem from the joints in and around the ribs, often they do. As such, chiropractic care can be your best line of treatment once you determine what is causing the pain. In this blog, you’ll learn about kinds of rib pain and whether chiropractors should or should not treat them, then dive into some rib issues to see how chiropractors can help relieve the pain.

Symptoms of Rib and Chest Pain

“Rib pain commonly shows up as a sharp, stabbing pain in the upper back between the shoulder blades,” notes Dr. Rick Gross of Quality Care Chiropractic. The pain can be a dull and constant ache; it can be sharp, tearing, and stabbing like a muscle spasm; or it can be tender to the touch like a bruise.

The pain flares with sudden movements involving the upper chest area, and it can worsen when inhaling and sometimes exhaling. Dr. Gross adds, “Typically, it’s worse with deep breaths, coughing or sneezing, reaching for something, or turning your head to the side or looking down.”

The pain’s location can be localized, or it can feel as though pain is wrapping around the chest. It often is triggered by positions like lying on your side during sleep. In some cases, a constant or intermittent tingling and numbness is felt in the chest or ribs over a period of time.

What Chiropractors Shouldn’t Treat

Rib and chest pains happen for various reasons. Dr. Gross advises, “Because of the overlap of heart and rib problems, we don’t recommend diagnosing yourself from an internet search. It’s better to get a proper medical evaluation. The most important part of the diagnosis is making sure it’s not a heart attack since pain from ribs can be in the chest and feel very intense.”

Because rib and chest pain can stem from direct trauma, infection, or heart-related issues, Dr. Gross states, “Most of our patients go to the emergency room or urgent care first to confirm that their heart is not involved. Then we can begin chiropractic care to fix their problem.” It is important to make sure it isn’t any of the following before consulting a chiropractor:

  • Rib Fracture: This happens from direct trauma to the ribs or from falling onto a hard object; for the elderly, it can happen from strong pressure. X-rays can confirm this suspicion.
  • Pleurisy (Pleuritis): Sharp chest pains can happen from viral or bacterial infections of the membranes enveloping the lungs. Symptoms also include coughing or sneezing.
  • Pericarditis: This is caused by inflammation of the sac around the heart and inhibits breathing ability when lying down. It can happen from a viral or bacterial infection.
  • Angina: This heart issue involves squeezing or pressure pain in the middle of the chest. Caused by reduced blood flow, it usually worsens with strenuous activity or exercise but goes away with rest; however, it can be the start of something more serious.
  • Heart Attack: Also known as myocardial infarction, this serious heart condition presents as pain in the middle of the chest that can last for more than 30 minutes without relief. If untreated, it can result in heart muscle damage.

Rib Pain Chiropractors Can Treat

After all the trauma-, infection-, and heart-related issues can be ruled out, “The most effective treatment for rib pain is a chiropractic adjustment,” says Dr. Gross. “The ribs are connected with small joints that easily shift out of place and cause intense pain. Adjustments can fix the problem very quickly. Because this is a functional problem, muscle relaxers and pain medications typically are not as effective, especially long term.”

Strains and Sprains: With adjustments, chiropractors can help alleviate the pain of the following common strains and sprains:

  • Diaphragm Strain: This is pain under the rib cage (generally on the left) described as a stitch in the side. It is common during running if that has not been done for a while. The strained diaphragm muscle contributes to lower back and shoulder pain.
  • Rib Muscle Strain: This occurs with overuse or moving heavy objects when the muscles are not conditioned for the activity.
  • Costotransverse Sprain: This is rib pain from the ligaments between the rib and the thoracic spine at the back of the chest near the spine.

Chronic Conditions: Sometimes the pain is generalized and caused by chronic conditions. For these, chiropractors can better align the affected body areas and help manage the pain.

  • Tietze’s Syndrome: Most common in middle-aged women, this moderate to severe rib pain occurs on one or both sides of the joints at the front of the ribs.
  • Costochondritis: Most common in younger people, this pain occurs on both sides at the middle of ribs near the sternum.
  • Fibromyalgia: This is when pain occurs in many places in the body and is most common in women. In addition to the chest area, pain is also felt in the neck, shoulder, elbow, or knees.
  • Intercostal Neuralgia: This feels like a tightening “band” around the chest and is a common inflammation of the nerves between the ribs. It can be triggered by infection and is usually on one side and accompanied by a rash or blisters along the rib.
  • Slipping Rib Syndrome: This occurs when the cartilage between the ribs weakens from injury or inflammation and the ligaments cannot hold the ribs in place. It allows for hypermobility and can cause chronic, recurring pain that may affect proper sleep and impair daily life.

Why Is Chiropractic Care Effective?

Misaligned ribs can be extremely painful, making it difficult to twist or reach or even breathe because the sprain or inflammation affects the soft tissues and the surrounding muscles in the upper back and neck. Medically termed costovertebral or costotransverse subluxation, the joint where the rib head joins the spine isn’t moving as designed and causes the rib to be stuck in an extremely painful position, shifting slightly outward and upward.

The good news is that a subluxated rib is usually a relatively easy fix with chiropractic care. Chiropractors help allay the effects the misaligned rib has on the spinal cord and nerves by rectifying the body’s alignment to return proper range of motion. Chiropractic adjustments address the misalignment, so our bodies can heal properly.

If you or anyone you know is suffering from rib or chest pain and other medical issues have been ruled out, contact us at Quality Care Chiropractic in Aurora, IL, at (630) 499-2225. We can answer your questions and help you on your way back whole-body health.

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