Referred chest pain

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Referred chest pain might originate from the back. It is important to note that the pain or discomfort can be felt in the chest area but the precise cause might be in the thoracic spine.

The pain in the rib area or chest is sometimes passed on to the thoracic spine. This is the region of the spine that travels between the shoulder blades down to the middle back. This is the usual cause of chest pain among young athletes.

Referred chest pain
Chest pain that occurs without traumatic injury to the chest region.

Referred chest pain is one that is felt in one area but does not originate there. It is usually triggered by another issue in a different body part. Remember that referred pain typically starts at a point or site higher than where the pain is felt. When it comes to referred chest pain, it can stem from various regions with the zygapophyseal joints in the thoracic spine as the usual site. In some cases, it can start from the costovertebral or costotransverse joints in which the ribs link to the vertebrae. Take note that trigger points and muscle tightness can also form which intensifies the pain.

Indications of referred chest pain

  • Chest pain that occurs without traumatic injury to the chest region
  • Pain is aggravated by deep breathing, sneezing or coughing
  • Upper back region might feel rigid or stiff
  • Tightness and tenderness of the upper back muscles


The treatment for referred chest pain is based on the exact cause of the pain. The commonly used measures include deep tissue massage that works by releasing the tension in the muscles that reduces the pressure on any nerves which are relaying the chest pain.

In some cases, spinal manipulation is carried out to restore full range of movement to the spinal joints. Strengthening and stretching exercises are also recommended for the upper body, core and upper back to restore full strength and movement.

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