Heartburn or GERD can Kill

Heartburn is a common annoyance. The busy lifestyle, quick meals, fatty or spicy foods all contribute to the occasional need of a chewable pain reliever. The acceptance of heartburn as an inconvenient, but natural, part of the daily grind can blind you to the warning that a severe heartburn symptom can bring.

Heartburn as a Disorder

Heartburn can be a symptom as well as a disorder. Simple heartburn or GERD can be controlled and dealt with. However, heartburn can signal the presence of a much more serious problem. If it’s heartburn, you will have a burning sensation in the chest usually after eating. There may be a spread of the burning to the throat, sometimes accompanied by a bad taste, difficulty in swallowing, belching, coughing, hoarseness and/or wheezing.

It can become worse by lying down or bending over or by eating. Relief can come from an antacid. While the more severe heartburn symptoms may be mistaken for a heart attack, simple heartburn is usually not made worse by exercise. If there is any concern that the pain may signal a heart attack, get help quickly.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Shoulder Pain-Heart Attack or Rotator Cuff Injury?

By Dr Jason Fowler

The great TV classic ER helps teach armchair physicians to become amateur diagnosticians. He's in shock! She's got kidney stones! Rule-out pheochromocytoma!

Sometimes a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

You've learned somewhere - on the network news, in the Science section of The New York Times, or in a CPR class at your job - that shoulder pain can mean you are having a heart attack. Now, seemingly out of the blue, your shoulder begins to ache and throb. Very concerned, you rush to the local emergency room.

The resident's first question, of course, is "where does it hurt"? You point to your right shoulder and blurt out, "Am I having a heart attack?" The resident smiles, gently reassuring. "A heart attack might give you pain in your left shoulder," she says. "Have you been to the gym lately? This might be a rotator cuff strain."

The resident knows that heart attack symptoms usually involve chest pain (in two-thirds of cases), and may include faintness, shortness of breath, sweating, and a feeling of impending doom. Chest pain may spread to the back, jaw, and arms. Left arm pain may radiate to the inside of the forearm and the ring and little fingers. So, shoulder pain by itself probably doesnt suggest a heart attack.

She orders an MRI which shows mild damage to the right rotator cuff. What is going on? What exactly is the rotator cuff?

The rotator cuff is a muscular sheath that surrounds the head of the arm bone (the humerus) and the entire shoulder joint (really, two joints - the acromioclavicular and glenohumeral joints). The four muscles that comprise the rotator cuff help raise the arm to the front and the side and help turn the shoulder inward or outward.

If you're a sports fan, you know that rotator cuff injuries affect baseball pitchers, tennis players, swimmers, and football players. Such injuries are due to repetitive motion, and can also result from falling on the shoulder or arm or lifting heavy weights.

Rotator cuff injuries may also be slowly developing and chronic, related to arthritic and degenerative changes in the rotator cuff tendon and the two shoulder joints. Low-grade pain may develop, and the pain may become aching, throbbing, and chronic. Raising the arm may cause pain, and there may be loss of mobility.

In the above-40 population, lack of exercise and chronically poor posture may contribute to rotator cuff problems. Sitting at a desk all day, with your neck jutting forward and slumped shoulders, places long-term mechanical stress on the rotator cuff.

Chiropractic treatment can be very useful in helping to rehabilitate chronic rotator cuff injuries. The chiropractic physician is expert in evaluating postural problems and associated spinal conditions. By providing effective treatment, postural corrections, and rehabilitative exercise, chiropractors offer a comprehensive therapeutic program to reduce pain, improve shoulder mobility, and regain function.

1Source: Cedars-Sinai www.cedars-sinai.edu 2Baring T, et al Management of rotator cuff disease. Best Pract Res Clin Rheumatol 21(2):279-294, 2007.

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