Back Talk: Rib misalignments can mimic a heart attack

By Dr. Layne Towery
Aug. 13, 2013 at 3:13 a.m.

Layne Towery

Layne Towery

I am a 35-year-old female in good health. I was doing some yard work and lifted something heavy. I started having sharp pain under my left shoulder blade and in my chest. My left arm ached some. I thought I was having a heart attack. The ER checked me out and said nothing is wrong with my heart. I am still hurting, especially when I cough or sneeze. What could this be? Can chiropractic work help? What can I do at home to get some relief?

Good thing it was not your heart. It would be very unusual for a woman your age to have a heart attack, but it does happen. Given your history, it sounds like you have thrown a couple of ribs out of alignment.

In their most innocuous form, rib head misalignments feel dull, sore and achy. At its worst, these subluxations can feel like a sharp stabbing pain that radiates into the chest. Coughing and sneezing is really painful.

Pain is usually felt up underneath the shoulder blade area. The rib head may feel swollen or inflamed. The area around the rib will be painful to the touch.

Manual chiropractic adjustments is the treatment of choice for any misalignments. Massage and acupuncture can be helpful for the pain. You need to ice the area of swelling several times a day for 30 minutes.

Taking some over-the-counter medication may be helpful. Lifting with your arms away from your body should be avoided.

My doctor wants me to get a home TENS machine for my chronic back pain. How can a TENS help with my pain, and how do I know were to put it and how long can I use it per day?

TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. This pocket-sized machine is a non-invasive, drug-free method of controlling pain. TENS sends tiny electrical impulses through the skin to the nerves to modify your pain perception.

You should place the pads either on the area of pain or as the Chinese say, "surround the dragon," which is the area around the pain.

Treatments should be at least 30 minutes. I have left my TENS on my back for hours depending on the situation.

I have cholesterol problems. I have tried multiple statin drugs, but they all made me weak and gave me muscle pain. What do you suggest that is more natural?

Cholesterol is a huge problem here in the United States. Statin drugs are by far the most commonly used prescription medications. The problem with statin drugs is the dangerous and unwanted side effects. Leg pain and general fatigue are the most common.

In my practice, I have had good luck with the Chinese herb Hong Qu extract or red yeast rice. Also, I have my patients take omega 3 and 6, which are purified fish oils.

Regular exercise is helpful along with increasing your fruits and vegetables. Stay away from saturated fats. Stopping smoking is also recommended.

Layne Towery is a Victoria Chiropractor and Acupuncturist and can be reached at or 361-570-6284.



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