Have you ever experienced chest pain? The first inclination is to believe it’s something involving the heart, right? As reasonable as that sounds, there are numerous conditions that cause chest pain that are not heart related, including those of the lungs, ribs or thoracic spine. In last week’s blog, we focused on the Autonomic Nervous System and the different organs that are innervated. For the next four weeks, we will discuss various body systems and how chiropractic can help. This week we will begin with the heart and lungs.

Anatomy & Physiology of the Heart

The heart is a muscle that lies in the middle of the chest, slightly left of the sternum and weighs on average 7oz-15oz. The heart works as a pump that pushes blood to the organs, tissues, and cells of the body. Blood delivers oxygen and nutrients to every cell and removes the carbon dioxide and waste products made by those cells. Blood is carried from the heart to the rest of the body through a complex network of arteries, arterioles, and capillaries. Blood is returned to the heart through venules and veins. 

Anatomy & Physiology of the Lungs

The lungs are the foundational organs of the respiratory system, whose most basic function is to facilitate gas exchange from the environment into the bloodstream. Oxygen gets transported through the alveoli into the capillary network, where it can enter the arterial system to ultimately perfuse tissue. When we inhale, we breathe in oxygen; when we exhale, we breathe out carbon dioxide.

Connecting the Heart and Lungs to the Nervous System

Realize that overview anatomy and physiology overview of the heart and lungs is just a brief description. Examining each in their entirety would take far too long to discuss.

When evaluating the heart and lungs in relation to the nervous system, remember that the nervous system stimulates hearts to beat and our lungs to breathe. In last week’s blog, we reviewed how the Autonomic Nervous System is responsible for organ function and showed a diagram of what nerves innervate to different organs.

If you refer back to the diagram, you will notice that both the heart and lungs have nerve innervations coming from the thoracic spine. When nerve interference occurs in these regions, without treatment, the organs begin to fail and further complications are likely.

How Can Chiropractors Manage Heart Health?

To be clear, Chiropractors cannot treat heart attacks. If you are experiencing symptoms of a heart attack, call 9-1-1. 

Classic signs of a heart attack include sudden chest pain that doesn’t go away, difficulty breathing, rapid heartbeat, sweating, irritability, and pain that runs down the left arm. All symptoms could be present or only one may be present. The problem is identifying when there is a heart attack and when it is nerve interference.

Most of these symptoms can be related to other health conditions, but the biggest thing to look for when a heart attack is present is chest pain that doesn’t go away. If it goes away, another condition known as angina may be present. Angina has similar symptoms to a heart attack and is due to reduced blood flow to the heart. Recurring angina episodes can be a symptom of coronary heart disease and is a warning a future heart attack may happen. 

The are not many heart conditions that chiropractors can help manage, but one we want to briefly discuss is heart arrythmia. A heart arrythmia occurs when the electrical signals from the nerves associated with the heart are not functioning properly. This causes the heart to beat too fast (tachycardia) or too slow (bradycardia) at various times of the day. 

The nerves associated with the Autonomic Nervous System help regulate heart rate. Studies show spinal adjustments in the thoracic region can help manage heart arrhythmias by removing nerve interference and enhancing the nervous system. 

Keeping autonomic nerves well adjusted can also help reduce blood pressure. Chronically high blood pressure can place a lot of stress on the arteries, veins, and chambers of the heart. 

Inflammation is one of the most common reasons why people develop chronic cardiovascular issues. Chiropractic adjustments can help people reduce inflammation throughout the body. This includes inflammation that would otherwise take place in the arteries, veins, and heart. By reducing inflammation throughout the heart, people can prevent chronic cardiovascular issues from developing. 

How Can Chiropractors Manage Lung Health?

Like the heart, chiropractors can’t treat diagnosed lung conditions, but they can help manage different conditions by removing nerve interference and optimizing the nervous system. Conditions such as lung disease, COPD, and emphysema are typically untreatable because of permanent lung damage. These conditions make it very difficult for people to breathe, but studies show that routine chiropractic care helps open airways, making breathing easier. 

Two other conditions we want to briefly discuss are bronchitis and asthma. We separated these two conditions from the others previously mentioned because they are treatable, whereas other conditions are not.


Bronchitis is an inflammation of the lining in the bronchial tubes, which carry air to and from the lungs. People who have bronchitis often cough up thickened mucus, which can be discolored. Bronchitis may be either acute or chronic. Flu like symptoms may be present for a few days, but acute bronchitis may last a few weeks, whereas chronic bronchitis can last years.


Asthma is a condition in which airways narrow and swell and may produce extra mucus. This can make breathing difficult and trigger coughing, a whistling sound (wheezing) when you exhale, and shortness of breath. For some people, asthma is a minor nuisance. For others, it can be a major problem that interferes with daily activities and may lead to a life-threatening asthma attack.

Asthma is typically triggered by allergens such as air pollutants, cold air or physical activity. Doctors say that asthma is untreatable, but using an inhaler will treat or mitigate symptoms.

Studies show that chiropractic care helps treat both conditions, especially asthma. Both conditions produce coughing and forceful muscle contractions. This causes improper bone movement and nerve impingement. When nerve interference is removed, lung airways open allowing easier breathing and complete inflammation relief.


Remember we are not cardiologists or pulmonologists. If you have a true medical concern, please contact your primary care physician and they can refer you to the appropriate specialist. Once a diagnosis is confirmed we can co-manage your care and help remove nerve interference. 

If you have any questions about how we can help manage certain heart and lung conditions please call us at (724) 547-3377 and check out our website, www.drlarrywilkinsspinalcare.com for more information.

Yours in Health,

Larry E. Wilkins, D.C.

Brian M. Steinert, D.C.