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Old 06-17-2012, 12:02 AM   #2
Recombinant Recombinant is offline
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Austin / San Antonio TX
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Re: Have a pain on the side of my torso/chest

Pain in this area is most often, but not limited to, one of a few specific etiologies. Intercostal musculoskeletal pain can manifest in the torso, but is usually superficial and more anterior (towards the front) - often times exacerbated on palpation. I have experienced this before, no sweat. Then there is pulmonary/respiratory pain that could present anywhere near the lungs in the thoracic cavity. This can often be a sign of possible pulmonary embolism (PE), especially if it is exacerbated by breathing in to fill the lungs to maximum capacity (although this symptom is not present in a large % of cases). I have also had a suspected PE which I had a V/Q (ventilation/perfusion) scan to rule out. Thirdly is the obvious cardiac/vascular pain. There is no "magic set" of symptoms that can rule out a cardiac pathology other than professional medical evaluation. When I was 18 I had potentially serious cardiac arrhythmia which resulted in a crushing painful sensation in my left side. The only way my physician was able to rule out MI (myocardial infarction) was by examining my 12 lead EKG which was done immediately and confirmed with negative cardiac enzyme panels. This is just to provide examples of not uncommon reasons for pain in the thoracic cavity. One thing that should be mentioned is the phenomenon of referred pain. This is a condition where pain that results from one area of the body is experienced in another due to the innervation of the torso. For instance, I could have appendicitis, but experience the pain in my right shoulder rather than my abdomen. This is just a hypothetical of course, but the Vagus nerve innervates and spans the entire chest and abdominal cavity, and sometimes the "wires get crossed" so to speak, and the interpretation of the painful stimuli by the brain makes us experience the pain in a location other than directly where it is actually occurring.

All this is to say that chest cavity and chest wall pains should never be dismissed offhandedly. Only a physician can rule out a more serious condition like MI, PE, or any number of other pathologies. PE can sometimes be heard on auscultation with stethoscope as aberrant lung sounds, and EKGs are cheap and quick - most PCPs can do them in the office. Better to get checked and catch anything serious before it becomes to late than end up in the ER with a blown lung or cardiac infarct.
"'I'm not feeling very well, I need a doctor immediately!' 'Ring the nearest golf course'"
- Groucho Marx

Last edited by Recombinant; 06-17-2012 at 02:18 PM. Reason: Correction of language regarding etiology