How to treat costochondritis

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Costochondritis is the inflammation of the cartilage that function in connecting a rib to the breastbone or sternum which is a junction known as the costosternal joint. Pain that is caused by costochondritis imitates that of heart attacks or other conditions.

Other names of costochondritis include pain in the chest wall, costosternal chondrodynia and costosternal syndrome. When pain is accompanied by inflammation, it is called as the Tietze syndrome.

Symptoms of costochondritis

  • It becomes worse when taking a deep breath or coughing
  • It happens on the left side of the breastbone
  • It affects more than one rib

Causes of costochondritis

It becomes worse when taking a deep breath or coughing
  • An injury such as a blow to the chest could cause costochondritis.
  • Arthritis, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis can cause costochondritis.
  • Lifting of heavy objects and engaging in strenuous exercises can cause costochondritis with severe coughing.
  • Non-cancerous and cancerous tumors and cancers from other parts of the body that spreads to the joints like breast, thyroid and lung can also cause costochondritis.
  • A rib joint that becomes infected by virus, bacteria or fungi like tuberculosis, syphilis and aspergillosis can cause costochondritis.

Treatment and home remedies

  • Costochondritis is caused by an overuse or by trauma. The best thing to do is to rest the muscles and joints that surround the sternum in order for them to heal.
  • Take anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen in order to minimize inflammation and pain at least 800mg to be taken three times a day. It should be reduced to 400mg taken at 2-3 times a day if the pain starts to subside.
  • Take pain medication like acetaminophen in order to relieve pain
  • Apply cold or heat compress to the sternal areas, depending which feels better for the person. Ice compress can help in minimizing inflammation. If you want to learn more about this treatment option, read here.
  • Avoid doing exercise that can cause costochondritis and cause irritation of the affected area. Seek the help of a physical therapist on what kind of exercises that can promote healing of the affected area.
  • Pain caused by costochondritis lasts for at least 1-2 months, even up to 6 months, but if there additional injuries such as sternal fracture, bruised bones or muscles as well as strains, the pain might persist for a year or even longer. The quality of care will determine the length of the recovery period.

Prevention of costochondritis

  • Avoid trauma to the chest area, sternum and ribs which happens in a car accidents like when the chest will hit the steering wheel, if there is no airbag in front of the steering wheel, another is being punched in the chest during a fight, and a direct hit in the chest when playing contact sports like football.
  • Wear seatbelt when driving a vehicle.
  • When playing contact sports, wear padding that is placed in the chest in order to minimize a blow to the chest.
  • Maintain a good posture by sitting up straight at work while on a computer and using ergonomically designed chairs can be helpful.
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