Costochondritis is a syndrome of the chest wall pain and occurs when there is an inflammation at the junction of the rib bone and breastbone (sternum).
Costochondritis is widely accepted as the most common cause of chest pain originating in the chest wall. In fact, it accounts for 15-30% of all chest pain in children. The age group of 12-14 is recognized as the peak age for occurrence of the condition of costochondritis.
It occurs most frequently in women above the age of 40. This disorder is also referred to as costosternal syndrome or costosternal chondrodynia.
Symptoms of Costochondritis
Pain over the front of the upper chest is the most common symptom of costochondritis. The other symptoms include:
• Pain that gets aggravated by activity or exercise
• Pain while deep breathing
• Pain when coughing/sneezing
• Pain on touching the affected area
• Pain in shoulder or arms
• Soreness in the chest
• Genetic predisposition
When the pain is accompanied by redness and/or swelling in the tender areas, the condition is referred to as the Tietze’s syndrome.
Costochondritis occurs because of the inflammation of the cartilage (i.e., the costochondral joints) joining the rib bone and breastbone (sternum). Other causative factors include:
• Traumatic Injury: This is identified as the most common cause of the inflammation. A prominent example is a car accident where the driver’s chest strikes the steering wheel.
• Fibromyalgia: In some cases, recurring costochondritis could be indicative of the presence of Fibromyalgia, another condition characterized by tender spots over the body.
• Viral infections: Viral infections, especially the upper respiratory infections are also known to be the cause of costochondritis.
• Referred pain: Sometimes, the brain misinterprets the pain signals. Pain in your chest could actually be caused by the problems with the bones in your spine compressing the nerves.
The condition of costochondritis is normally self-curing and the pain usually resolves after a week or two.
Medications are normally prescribed for pain relief during the course of the disorder. The main amongst these include:
• Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve)
• Antidepressants, especially tricyclic antidepressants, to ease sleep disorders
• Muscle relaxants
Surgical removal of sore cartilage may also be sought if medical therapy does not get the desired response. In some cases, alternative therapies such as massage and acupuncture have also known to bring relief from the symptoms of costochondritis.
Certain self-care measures can prove quite helpful in this condition. Here we briefly list the few amongst them:
• Avoid activities or movements that aggravate the pain
• Heat therapy, such as heating pads can be put on the area for 20 minutes, 4-8 times a day
• Resume your normally activities gradually, once the pain subsides
• Be sure to warm up adequately before any strenuous activity or exercise