Referred Chest Pain

Referred chest pain

Referred chest pain is pain that originates from an injury elsewhere, but is felt in the chest. The root cause of the problem may be in the thoracic spine or upper back.



  • Symptoms include pain in the chest which comes on without a traumatic injury to the chest area.
  • Pain may be made worse by taking deep breaths, coughing, sneezing, etc.
  • The upper back area may feel stiff.
  • Upper back muscles may feel tight and tender.

What is referred chest pain?

Pain in the chest or rib area can sometimes be referred to as the thoracic spine. This is the area of the spine that runs between your shoulder blades and down the mid-back. This is a common cause of chest pain in young athletes.

Facet joints / Zygapophysial joints

Referred pain is when pain is felt in one area but does not originate there. Instead, it is caused by a problem elsewhere. Referred chest pain usually starts at a point higher up than where the pain is felt.

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Facet joints in the spine

In the case of referred chest pain, it can originate from many areas, with the most common being the facet joints or Zygapophyseal joints of the thoracic spine.

It may also originate from the Costovertebral or Costotransverse joints, where the ribs attach to the vertebrae.

Trigger points

Muscular tightness and trigger points can also develop, increasing the referred pain. A trigger point is a small localized knot in the muscle. If your muscle or part of it spasms, then blood and nutrients are not able to reach that part of the muscle. Therefore, it will not recover from training or injury and will be a potential weak point in the future. Thigh muscles cause a vertebra to move out of alignment, which in turn may impinge on nerves.

Treatment of referred pain

Treatment depends on the cause of the pain, but commonly used treatments include:

  • Deep tissue massage. This releases tension in muscles, which in turn reduces pressure on any nerves which may be impinged. are referring to chest pain.
  • Spinal manipulation to restore a full range of movement to the joints in the spine. Visit a good Chiropractor or Osteopath who specialises in spinal manipulation for athletes.
  • Stretching and strengthening exercises may also be recommended for the upper body, upper back and core to regain full movement and strength.

References & further reading

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