Costochondritis is an inflammatory condition affecting the cartilage tissue connecting the ribs to the sternum. Since it affects the sternum, it is also known as costosternal syndrome or costosternal chondrodynia. It causes pain in the chest area and ranges from mild to severe. The pain is similar to that of a heart attack and needs professional care. Although there is no direct cure for this condition, the treatment centres around reducing pain and discomfort caused by inflammation.
Women over 40 are at a higher risk of developing this condition.
Since this condition imitates the symptoms of a heart attack, the pain is usually experienced on the left side. The pain is quite intense and worsens while coughing or deep breathing.
There’s no single cause behind costochondritis and it can occur due to multiple reasons. An infection affecting the rib joint can procure damage to the cartilage and cause inflammation. Coughing too hard, falling, and performing intense physical activity involving the chest can also trigger this condition. Sometimes the pain even radiates towards the back or stomach area. Even breathing deeply can trigger severe pain in the chest. It also coexists with various forms of arthritis such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Your doctor will perform a physical exam and check for symptoms in the chest area. There is swelling in the affected area which is accompanied by pain. Your doctor will examine you by making certain movements in your upper body and see if any symptoms surface. The pain associated with costochondritis is pretty much indistinguishable. Therefore, to rule out these conditions your physician might recommend imaging tests such as X-ray, MRI, or a CT scan.
Costochondritis pain is treatable. It usually heals on its own over a few weeks.
The medications prescribed for this condition include over-the-counter NSAIDs which range from mild to strong.
Physical therapy has also proven to be very effective in pain management and inducing faster recovery. The exercises include mild stretching of the chest muscles to reduce pain.
Local steroid injection at the cost chondral joint can be considered as a treatment option for resistant cases.
Heat and Ice therapy can also provide a certain degree of comfort. Although there’s no proper medical procedure to cure this condition, by making certain lifestyle changes you can manage your costochondritis better. These include properly resting and avoiding activities that can trigger pain or worsen your condition further.