Tietzes Syndrome

by Alex Davies
(Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada)

Tietzes Syndrome


I am a 21 year old male who has been an athlete and very active my whole life. For 2 years now I have been dealing with tense neck muscles and constant (and I mean they never go away, ever) headaches. It started with a dull ache at the back of my head where my spine reaches my head but has grown into a problem that is overwhelming me. Today I am so stiff it hurts to do stand, sit and do daily activities. The headaches are the same but now my ribs and chest ache and feel very tight. When I was 16 I had pain in the center of my chest (that I went to emerge about?) and they called it "chest wall pain" and gave me anti-inflammatory medication. I carried on and the chest pain was only really present when I sneezed sometimes or during certain stretches.

The severe pain in my ribs has only been present since seeing a chiropractor a couple months ago, and the pain I felt in my chest as a 16 year old is present all the time since then.

Tietze's syndrome, which I read about on your site describes my symptoms except the only thing that bothered me for the longest time was head and neck pain.

My physio therapist says I'm as stiff as anyone he's seen and believes a tight dura is the reason for my headaches but the stretches he gave me (standing rag doll, trying to touch my toes) have aggravated my ribs, chest, and back to the point where it hurts to breathe. No doctor has ever been able to help me and im feeling very helpless as my condition worsens.

Other symptoms I've experienced include a numb left arm where its obvious the circulation has been cut off to my arm in the sitting position with my arm elevated (mainly sitting at a desk or driving). I often have pressure in my ears which coincide with bad tension headaches.

I fear seeing a chiropractor again because I believe it made me worse, and no one else seems to have any answers.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated



Hello Alex,

It took me many years to work out that a heavy manipulation in the midback would aggravate this condition, so don't feel all alone.

It sounds like you have several different conditions that are overlapping. Just to be sure, I would suggest some blood tests to be sure that you don't have a medical condition such as Ankylosing spondylitis. Frankly, unlikely, but it does happen.

The numb feeling in your arm when you raise your arm is typical of a first rib fixation causing a "thoracic outlet syndrome". It also involves several muscles in the neck (the scalenes) which would explain the neck pain and headaches.

Tietze's is a nasty condition involving the whole rib, sometimes several, usually unilateral, but it can be both sides. Breastbone pain, and pain along the rib to the midback is the feature. Commonly aggravated by deep breathing.

The correct Chiropractic treatment is very specific, and carefully avoids any heavy midback manipulation. Oddly I had a new patient yesterday, a professional cyclist, with this exact problem.

Often there is associated indigestion and heartburn because the diaphragm is attached to the lower ribs.

I confess I too may have aggravated and even caused this problem until I worked out how to treat it. It's called Iatrogenic Illness, or doctor-caused disease!

If you had a good rapport with your present DC, despite the fact he aggravated this condition, then I would return to him, and carefully and very definitely point out that the treatment increased your pain. If he listens, and is prepared to think and adapt his treatment, well and good. If not, and you feel rushed brushed off, in and out, don't let him touch you, move on.

If he would like to Skype me, I'd be happy to outline the protocol I have developed. No charge.

Have you had X-rays taken? Neck and midback. Get those blood tests.

Shop around Alex. Before consulting another chiro, always first ask if he has heard of Tietze's. Heavy midback manipulation definitely aggravates and even causes the condition. It will only increase your problems even more.

Go from Tietzes Syndrome to Chiropractic Tips …

I hope this has contributed. If so, this is my latest book of chiropractic anecdotes, available on Amazon for $2.99! Shameless, self promotion! Stones in my Clog … Chiropractic anecdotes from the polders of Holland.

Dr B

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Oct 24, 2013
I am so sorry
by: Phil Agosta

I thought you were local I do not know where to go or trust. That Heart Attack Syndrome is killing me. At most I can clean 90 minutes after that I suffer three days. I get Charlie Horses Vicious Cramps around my ribs and chest than I pass out I have several cuts on my forehead from whatever I hit. I really cried when I saw where you were in the world. How can I find who I can trust. I am on Medicare disability and can only afford a few treatment a year. My house is a mess I am doing hard time in a little room. My Diaphragm is affected like a belt around my chest. I can't live like this. Sorry I thought you were near.

[Hello Phil,
Maybe you have a vacation in Alaska coming up. This is treatable, keep positive, careful not to become an emotional wreck on top of a real physical problem.

Good luck,

Dr B]

Jul 06, 2011
Your protocol for Tietzes syndrome
by: Anonymous

Tietzes syndrome

Dr. B,

I am a chiropractor for the military up in Alaska. I just today had a soldier come in today who has been suffering from Tietze's Snydrome for two years. I would be interested in what is you do with your patients. Any assistance would be much appreciated. You can email me at mary.long3@us.army.mil

Hello Dr Long,
I'll email you privately.

Barrie Lewis DC.

-Dr. Long

May 11, 2011
Tietzes syndrome
by: Dr B

I have been wondering how you are getting on, Alex. Any progress?

Dr B

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