Acute bouts of chest pain, especially if left sided, are potentially very worrying.  Most people under such circumstances would be concerned about their heart and either call the ambulance or go to A&E.  Very sensible too, as chest pain can be a hallmark of acute coronary syndrome (ACS) often termed angina or a heart attack.  Such cases account for up to 6% of all A&E admissions.  Of these admissions between and quarter and a fifth have ACS and require medical intervention.

However, 20 percent of admissions, despite thorough diagnostic assessment, do not have symptoms related to the heart.  Diagnosed as "undifferentiated chest pain", many continue to have recurrent episodes of chest pain, leading to anxiety, reduced quality of life and frequent encounters with the health care system.  In case studies, muscle-skeletal pain has been suggested as a much over looked cause.

It has been suggested that Chiropractic treatment could be beneficial in such cases.  A recent study in Denmark set out to examine this question.  They concluded that:

"Chiropractic treatment for patients with musculoskeletal chest pain appears to reduce pain intensity and increase patients' positive self-perceived change in pain when compared to minimal intervention."

The researchers speculate that such symptoms are similar to that for neck and thoracic pain. Add in the intensity of discomfort, shortness of breath, anxiety, fear, and depression and it's no wonder that people rush to hospital.

In clinic I estimate I see such a patient every 4 to 6 weeks.  The first I ever saw was a tradesman who had spent two weeks in intensive care, only to emerge with no diagnosis and only slightly less discomfort.  When asked to describe the pain, he said, "It's like a hot poker running from the front to the back.  It's like I've been skewered."

As with most cases like this, it didn't take long to find a very painful and restricted area in his back, between the shoulder blades.  I followed this round to the ribs as they connect into the chest bone, and there was another very sore area.  It is interesting that he also commented that I was the first person in the last two weeks to examine his chest and back with my hands, something I have never forgotten. 

Once this restriction was adjusted, symptoms cleared up within 5 days and didn't return.  Finding and treating the cause was a great relief, as not knowing what the problem is only adds to the anxiety and stops the body healing.  It's always gratifying when research backs up problems I've personally seen and successfully treated in clinic for years.