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Dr. Arnan Sisson, PT / January 16,2022
Poor Posture Can Cause Chest Pain
Make Sure Your Chest Pain Isn't A Heart Attack
If you're having chest pain, the first thing you should do is to make sure that you're not having a heart attack. This is especially important if it's left-sided chest pain.
Some signs of a heart attack include:
If you have any of these symptoms, stop reading this and call 911 or got to the emergency room.
Better safe than sorry!
For the rest of this post, I'm going to assume you've already done your due diligence to rule out a herat attack and focus on mechanical causes of chest pain from poor posture.
3 Ways That Poor Posture Can Cause Chest Pain
I'll first list some of the ways the poor posture can cause chest pain, and then I'll review each on more thoroughly.
The 3 causes of chest pain from poor posture include:
Chest Pain From A Rib Joint Dysfunction
One of the most common ways that poor posture can cause chest pain is from a rib joint dysfunction.
You ribs attach to your thoracic spine in your back and your sternum in the front through cartilage attachments called costal cartilages.
When you sit with poor posture, it can cause muscle imbalances between your chest muscles and serratus anterior in front and your rhomboids and trapezius muscles in your upper back between the shoulder blades.
If one of your ribs gets pulled too far forward or backward, it can cause abnormal stress on the costal cartilages. This can cause inflammation of the costal cartilage, referred to as costochondritis.
What causes costochondritis?
Costochondritis may be caused by a physical exertion such as hitting golf balls, lifting something heavy, or coughing a lot.
However, costochondritis can also be caused by sustained poor posture over time.
Symptoms of a rib joint dysfunction
A rib joint dysfunction causes chest pain at the costal cartilage. The pain may be worsened with deep breathing or coughing.
You may also have pain in your upper back at the same corresponding level as the chest pain. Even if you don't notice any pain, if someone pushes on the rib in your back, it will often be tender to touch.
Treatment for chest pain from costochondritis
So what can you do if you do have costochondral chest pain from poor posture?
One self-treatment you can do is just putting pressure on that area with your fist.
Run your fingers down the inside of your rib cage.
If you feel one area that's pushed out forward more than the others around it, take your fist and put it on the front of the rib next to your sternum.
Cover your fist with the other hand and gently push the rib backward as you breath in and out allowing the other ribs to and move forward while you hold the sore one in place.
So that's what to do if the sore rib is pushed forward.
What about if it's pushed backward?
Well, you may need help from someone else to push on your ribcage in the back while you put your hands on your sternum and breath in and out.
Physical therapy for a rib dysfunction
If you have chest pain from costochondritis or a rib joint dysfunction seeing a physical therapist can help. A rib joint manipulation can sometime drastically relieve pain from a rib joint dysfunction in the right patient.
Tap the button below to request an appointment with one of our specialist physical therapists to find out how we can help you.
Chest Pain From Scalene Muscles
If you sit with poor posture with your head out forward while you're working at a desk, that can put stress on your neck muscles, particularly your sternocleidomastoid muscles and scalene muscles.
You can find your scalene muscles by sniffing quickly. You'll feel them flare out.
That's because your scalene muscles attach to your upper two ribs.
Therfore, your scalenes can pull your first and/or second rib upward stressing the costocartilages of those ribs.
Even more than that though, the scalene muscles themselves have a trigger point referral pattern that refers into the upper part of the chest right and down into the arm as shown below.
So how do you treat chest pain from a scalene dysfunction?
Most important thing is to correct your posture.
Keep your chin over your shoulders without jutting your head and chin forward.
Keeping your head over your shoulders allows your spine to hold the weight of your read rather than your neck muscles working to hold the weight of your head.
Chest Pain From Thoracic Radiculopathy
Finally what about your thoracic spine?
One of the most common symptoms of a herniated disc in your thoracic is chest pain or pain that radiates around the rib cage at the level of the herniated disc as shown in green in the diagram below.
This radiating pain along a thoracic nerve root is called thoracic radiculopathy.
Additionally if you have degenerative disc disease where your thoracic discs have lost height, that can also cause a thoracic radiculopathy.
Depending on the problem, a thoracic radiculopathy can be aggravated either by slouching too much or, in some cases, by sitting too upright.
Your thoracic spine is supposed to round some, and sitting excessively straight can narrow the spaces where the nerves come out in your thoracic spine and further pinch the nerve roots.
So can poor posture cause chest pain?
Poor posture can cause chest pain, but "poor posture" isn't the same thing for everyone.
You have to play with your posture a little bit to find out which one is causing your problem: either slouching too much, or sitting to straight.
If sitting up straighter relieves your chest pain, then do that.
If slouching down a little bit relieves your chest pain, then do that even though some people might tell you that it's "poor posture".
But if it helps relieves the symptoms that you have then it's "good posture" for you.
It's a pretty common sense approach.
And that's what we like at Sisson & Associates.
We like when things make sense.
And our patients appreciate it to.
They like that we explain things to them in a way that makes sense and give them easy-to-implement solutions that don't require doing tons of exercises.
If you like when things make sense to and would like to find a solution to your neck, back, shoulder, or chest pain due to poor posture, tap the button below to request an appointment.