Pain You Should Never Ignore
Updated: Jan 4, 2021
Something a lot of people don't know about me is that a couple of years ago I was experiencing chest pains. It was a dull pain right in the middle of my chest and I felt like I could barely catch my breath. Being the 'quiet individual' I tend to be, I tried to "let it go" and think this to shall pass. But then after a couple of weeks of constant pain that eventually became sharp, I figured I should go to urgent care.
I had blood work done, EKG, X-Ray, ultrasound of my heart, I had to wear a holter monitor and probably a couple of other tests I don't know the names of. Everything came back normal.
Great... Is it just me or do you, too, roll your eyes when something is wrong in your body and test results come back 'normal'?! Like, NOTHING IS RIGHT ABOUT THIS!
So a week later I visited my GP only to be told that it most likely was stress related. This was definitely a possibility because at this time I had a lot going on. Mostly work related because I remember specifically it being October and we were behind on our annual catalog. Other extra curricula that I was involved in outside of work (that I chose to do) compounded with the stress from work and I think it all just came to a head. Eventually.. roughly by January.. the chest pain went away as did the work related -ish and I took a step back from the numerous projects I had started that seemed to become too much.
Fast forward to October 2019, the same timeframe as the above event only the year prior, I was experiencing chest pains yet again. I didn't get the sharp pains, but for sure the dull, tightness and shortness of breath. This time I spoke up early about it to my therapist and my other mental health doctor. I also mentioned it to my chiropractor. I kept a diary of it and it was consistent from October through the holidays (another stressful period for anyone!). It eventually subsided mid-January.
Is this chest pain actually stress related or is it something more serious? Honestly, I think it's mostly stress related. I'm a planner.. When things get good in life, I'm waiting for the shoe to drop.. I'm a perfectionist.. When I don't do something 'right', I'm not very nice to myself internally.. And so I think when outside stressors amp up and I'm already making life a little more difficult on myself, I'm more prone to stress related pains.
While I don't currently have a solution to this problem since I'm still working through it whenever it pops up, I do know of a couple things that helped with relieving the pain for a short period of time.
1. Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)-- In this type of mediation, you tense up particular muscle groups while inhaling and then relax them while exhaling. I had never heard of it until my therapist had me do it in session. As soon as we finished, my chest pain was gone. It was seriously magic!
Never heard of PMR? Do a Google search and there are a bunch of medical websites that explain the process. There's also YouTube videos you can listen to as you do the movements.
2. Seeing a chiropractor-- I have a desk job. Maybe you do, too. If not, you're probably on your phone or computer a lot of the day anyways. When I explained to my chiropractor my chest pain and how it was accompanied with upper back pain behind my shoulder blade, he said that poor posture and tension can cause this. When we sit for long periods of time, our upper bodies get tired and our shoulders begin to round inward. The same goes for when we're constantly looking down at our phones. We're conditioning our muscles to hunch over instead of standing tall. As we condition our muscles to function a different way than they should, we lose strength in other areas, too.
My chiropractor gave me a set of physical therapy exercises to do that I do most mornings after a workout. I recommend seeking out a chiropractor who does physical therapy exercises within his/her practice, if you don't already.