What is Costochondritis?
Costochondritis is the inflammation of the cartilage that connects the rib cage to the sternum. This inflammation at the joint, known as the costosternal junction, typically causes tenderness and pain in the chest area. This condition does not typically lead to any permanent problems but it can be debilitating to deal with on a day-to-day basis.
Do I have costochondritis?
One of the most telltale signs that you may have costochondritis is when you experience tenderness or pain when pushing on the costosternal junction, specifically when apply the pressure on the 4th, 5th, or 6th ribs (1st rib being the topmost one). The pain can sometimes intensify if you stretch the chest area or breathe deeply.
An important note: if you are experiencing any signs of chest pain, you should seek medical help immediately to rule out any heart issues. Heart issues are too severe to ignore, no matter light the pain is or how long you’ve been experiencing the chest pain. Get your heart checked out first!
What causes costochondritis?
Doctors generally do not know the cause of costochondritis. Inflammation is your body’s natural response to irritation, infection, or injury. Knowing that, you may have costochondritis due to one or a combination of the following:
- Injury to the chest, such as falling, blunt force, or from physical activity.
- An infection – such as respiratory tract infections, tuberculosis or syphilis.
- Certain cases of arthritis
- Severe coughing that strains your chest.
- Poor back and shoulder posture
How do I treat costochondritis?
Most cases of costochondritis can be treated with over-the-counter medication. If you go see a doctor regarding this condition, they may prescribe you nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen or paracetamol if you have mild to moderate pain.
If you are experience more severe pain, doctors may recommend corticosteroid injections. These are typically less preferred as having to many corticosteroid injections may damage your costosternal joint.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) Therapy
TENS therapy uses mild electric current delivered to the pain area to relieve pain. The electric pulse reduces the pain signal that your nerves send to your brain.
A less talked about and more cost-effective way to help treat costochondritis can be at home physical therapy. There are a variety of stretches that can done to help relieve pain and improve poor posture, which may be an underlying reason
A popular and effective stretch is use our custom designed Costopad to elevate your thoracic (mid back) area which opens your chest and relieves the pressure on your costosternal joint. A tennis ball or softball with a towel over it can achieve the same affect, although less comfortable. This can be done lying down or on a wall depending on your pain tolerance. Doing this for 10-15 minutes per day for a few weeks may ease your costochondritis and can improve your overall posture.