Thursday, 27 May 2010 13:00

Chronic or Acute (Non-Cardiac) Chest Pain and Chiropractic

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Chronic or Acute (Non-Cardiac) Chest Pain and Chiropractic

A report on the scientific literature 

William J. Owens DC, DAAMLP

Having chest pain can be a very scary experience and is a MAJOR cause for concern.  The obvious condition to evaluate and rule out is a heart attack.  There are many cases where the heart has been verified to be okay and there are no conditions related to blockage of the arteries in the chest, but the pain continues.  One common problem that is more benign, but can produce constant moderate/severe chronic pain, is chest pain of mechanical origin.  In other words, the bones and joints of the chest and middle back are not working properly and are causing irritation of the nerves.  This type of pain is actually quite common and related to posture, working activities (computer work) and trauma (car accidents, karate or even surgery).  YOU MUST BE RELEASED BY A CARDIOLOGIST WITH ANY TYPE OF CHEST PAIN prior to exploring treatment for mechanical chest pain.
Chiropractic continues to show up in the research as being effective for the treatment of mechanical chest pain.  In a recent paper published in conjunction with the New York Chiropractic College, the authors discuss such a case.   The clinical features of this case were “A 49-year-old man had chronic chest pain, dyspnea [trouble breathing] and anxiety for over 4 months.  The severity of the condition gradually progressed to the point of precluding the patient’s active employment and most physical activity.  Prior efforts to treat the condition were met with failure" (
Polkinghorn & Colloca, 2003, p. 108).
The authors went on to describe the treatment.  “The patient received mechanical force, manually assisted short-lever chiropractic adjustment
[the most common type of adjustment] of the thoracic spine and, in particular, the costosternal articulations [where the ribs meet the breast bone on the front of the chest]...Sustained chiropractic care rendered over a 14 week period resulted in complete resolution of the patient’s previously chronic condition, with recovery maintained at 9 month follow-up” (Polkinghorn & Colloca, 2003, p. 108).
Clinically, Dr. Studin (a co-author of this article) had a similar case this past month.  A 30-year-old painter had significant chest pain, chest tightness, shortness of breath and spontaneous perspiration.  He was rushed to the emergency room for an urgent cardiac work-up and subsequently released with a diagnosis of anxiety and a prescription for Xanax (anti-anxiety drug).  The next day, the patient still experienced the same signs and symptoms and began chiropractic care. After 1 chiropractic adjustment of both the sternum-rib complex and the spine, his entire symptom pattern was gone immediately and the patient was pain free.  It is now 4 weeks later and the patient is still symptom free.
These clinical case reviews are a very common finding when the cause is a neuromuscular (spinal nerves and muscles) finding called a vertebral subluxation.  These cases also illustrate that the chiropractic subluxation complex can be found in many places in the body.  Although the spine is the most common area, we now know that it can be found anywhere two bones come together, including the chest.  A doctor of chiropractic is a very important part of your healthcare team, even when it comes to chest pain. 
This study along with many others concludes that a drug-free approach of chiropractic care is one of the best solutions to chronic, non-cardiac chest pain. To find a qualified doctor of chiropractic near you go to the US Chiropractic Directory at and search your state.


1.  Polkinghorn, B. S., & Colloca, C. J. (2003). Chiropractic management of chronic chest pain using mechanical force, manually assisted short-level adjusting procedures. Journal of Manipulative and Physioliological Therapeutics, 26(2), 108-115.

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