back rib subluxation (at height of shoulder blades)

My 92-year-old mother has for 10 years experienced problems with intermittent rapid heartbeat, breathlessness, exhaustion and poor sleep.

Eight years ago she had a heart valve replacement but since then there has been little improvement.

The most specific symptom is immediate exhaustion when doing anything that involves lifting her hands above her shoulders. Her heart begins to pound and she has to lie down for hours to recover. She had a complete heart work-up a few months ago and the cardiologist said there's nothing wrong with her heart (though his comments suggest that he is the sort of doctor who believes the elderly should just learn to accept the limitations of old age -- and to be fair, he may have just been trying to read what he thought my mother wanted. In the past, for example, when she expressed fears of heart surgery, he would say he didn't blame her and he certainly wouldn't want to undergo something so dangerous, better to just live with the limitations, etc.).

A few weeks ago another doctor listened to her symptoms, felt her back, found a sore spot when he pressed on either side of her spine at about the height of her shoulder blades. He recommended that she see a chiropractor who could probably fix the problem in one or two visits. After her first treatment she had an immediate improvement. She was able to make beds, dust the whole house, walk a few hundred feet to the corner of her street -- all of which have been close to impossible without hours of resting after each little task.

A week later she had a second treatment as the chiropractor who had worked on only one side of the spine and she wanted her to do the other side. That was on a Tuesday. When I next spoke to her, I learned that by the following Saturday she had completely relapsed and was back to the exhaustion, rapid heartbeat, inability to do anything, etc.

She now doesn't want to have any further treatment whereas before she was willing to consider the possibility of regular massage and/or of further chiro. treatment. She feels the problem is her heart although the cardiologist told her nothing is wrong. She believes he was just trying to protect her from the truth about her condition.

My question is can a rib subluxation cause rapid heartbeat. I have found many articles on the internet indicating that all of her other symptoms are consistent with rib subluxation but nothing specifically related to heartbeat.

The answer to your main question, is that, no, I don't think a rib subluxation can affect the heart rhythm and rate, but pain does strange things.

Secondly, it seems clear that both her cardiologist and chiropractor were correct. The treatment obviously addressed the cause of her symptoms.

Thirdly, it's clear that the relapse had nothing to do with the second treatment. If it was it would have started sooner.

And lastly, after such a long period of pain and disability to jump back into the deep end, making beds and dusting the whole house was clearly foolish. And I would say that if she was 62!

To a degree I would agree entirely with the cardiologist. At 92 one must accept there are some limitations. But this is clearly treatable but to expect an eight year old problem to resolve after chiropractic treatments is obviously absurd.

Deal gently with Mum, but get her back to her chiropractor. She's obviously doing a great job. And then make sure that she keeps to the shallows. And no raising her hands above her head for a period, and perhaps for the rest of her life. It puts her into spine into extension and closes down the interscalene triangle, cutting off the blood and nerve supply to the arms.

Good luck. It's a wonderful achievement to reach your nineties, but it comes with its problems!

Dr Barrie Lewis

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