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Chest Pains: Dissecting the Myths

Updated: Sep 24, 2021

Chest pain is one of the most commonly occurring ailment that people go through. But it is one of the most misdiagnosed malady also. At first, it may appear that Chest pains and Heart Attack are one and the same thing. They may even appear similar to each other, but they are both separate and entirely different problems.

Chest pain may seem like a Heart Attack

The most basic question one might ask is that what is the major difference between chest pains and a heart attack. So, let's try to answer it as simply as possible. Firstly, chest pains causes muscle spasms, meaning there will be pain in muscles when you try to move. Even sitting erect will be a challenge if you are experiencing chest pains. In a heart attack, there is no pain in the muscles, but there is pain in the heart itself and the arteries surrounding the heart. Movement will not cause any pain in case of a heart attack.

Secondly, a heart attack will show up in ECG (Electro Cardio Graph) and ECHO (Echocardiogram) but a chest pain doesn't show up in these test results. Also, there will be pain when coughing, sneezing, breathing or doing any movement. These pains are not there in case of a heart attack. If by any chance, these pains are present during a heart attack, that means you have both chest pains and the heart attack.

An ECG report comes normal in case of Chest Pains

Generally it happens so that even after going through heart surgery, the pain does not really go. This pain is actually the chest pains, which needs a different solution as it is an entirely different problem. The surgery (Angiography - Stent or Bypass) was for the heart attack and not the chest pains.

Now the question arises that what exactly is Chest Pain?

Its origins lie in the spinal cord area which is our backbone or vertebrae. Whenever the nerves supplying blood to our chest area are compressed or pressed by our spine, it stops supplying blood to our chest, hence resulting in chest pains.

You must be wondering why would the spine do that? The answer lies in our day to day routine and is one of the major reasons for chest pains.

Our incorrect posture!

The spine bends or twists how we want and remains that way, resulting in nerve compression and hence chest pains. This means that if we sit incorrectly everyday, slouching and in forward bending posture, the spine will take the same bent shape and will remain that way. And that, my dears, is the worst shape a spine can be!

An abnormally bent spine leads to Chest Pains

Other reasons for chest pains include diseases called Kyphosis and Scoliosis where the spine bends so much, it resembles the English letter S. This disease is caused both by incorrect posture and/or congenital (after birth defects) reasons.

People prone to chest pains are generally women, mainly due to their body structure. As their chest area is heavy, it leads them to sit slouching down, in a leaning or forward bending posture. As a result, they have more chest pains than men.

Not only women, but men also get chest pains, where they are involved in IT Sector, doing sitting or desk jobs, students who sit in incorrect posture while studying or using the computer. In fact, anyone with a bad posture will start showing the symptoms of chest pains after several years.

<a href="">Heart photo created by jcomp -</a>
Women are generally more prone to Chest Pains

This pain doesn't really start in a day. a compressed nerve not supplying blood to its designated area, after many years will show up as chest pains.

Rehabilitation techniques

Now, I am going to discuss two methods by which chest pains can be cured or rehabilitated. The first method is fast but temporary and ineffective in the long run and the second method is a little hard work, but effective and has permanent results.

It is up to you which method should you choose when and if you have chest pains.

  1. With Medications: Any muscle relaxant, anti-inflammatory drug or steroids along with Vitamin D and calcium will provide temporary relief from chest pains. As the area where blood is not reaching is inflamed and swollen, thus, these drugs provide an immediate respite from the pains. Although, you will still have these pains when the effect of the meds wear off. So, basically it could be years spent taking these medicines and there would be no respite from the pain.

  2. Solution without Medication: A more permanent and the best solution to get rid of all chest pains is to correct your posture and to do some muscle strengthening exercises.

Posture correction is the best way of getting rid of Chest Pains

You cannot do this on your own. You would have to contact a Physiotherapist or a Chiropractor to initially release the tension in your affected area and later in consultation with your doctor, you can do some muscle strengthening exercises and posture correction at your home.

Traditionally, a Physical Therapist would use Ultrasonic Therapy or Interferential Therapy (IFT). They also have some techniques called Cupping and Dry Needling to release trigger points and to decompress nerves. These techniques are very useful in providing relief for chest pains. A chest pain which has moderate intensity, can be treated within 5 to 7 days of Physiotherapy sessions followed by regular exercises done at home. The duration of these exercises will depend upon how severe the chest pain is.

Chest pains are a classic example of lifestyle diseases. To really cure it, changes in the lifestyle are absolutely necessary. Correcting your sitting posture is one of the changes that you can do. Incorrect posture causes many such diseases. I will discuss them in detail in other posts.

Keep Healthy and Happy!

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This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Amit Kumar (Osteopath, certified Chiropractor and Physiotherapist) and written by Gitanjali Dass

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