- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
Living with Costochondritis one reason which could explain your chest pains
Costochondritis can affect many people in different ways. For some people they can experience a flare up once or twice a year. For many others it is a lifelong condition that they have to learn to live with each day for the rest of their life. Flare ups can happen at any time and with little notice.
While there is lots of information around about the condition and its symptoms, to date, there is no actual cure, only medication that can help ease the pain of sufferers. A lot of sufferers have resorted to other alternative methods to help live with this condition.
Many sufferers will have different symptoms and while there are certain activities that can cause this condition, to date there is no conclusive research done on why a person over another acquires this condition.
Living with Costochondritis
No age groups are exempt from Costochondritis (koss-toe-con-DRY-tiss). WebMD.com reports that women are more prone to suffer from this condition compare to men and children between 10 to 21 years of age who suffer from chest pain could be as a result of Costochondritis.
But a lot of sufferers do not care about this; they just want to find information that helps them deal and recover from this condition. To date no conclusive research had been done on why sufferers get this condition, especially if they haven't done any physical activity that is a known to be a key cause behind this condition.
The people who suffer from costochondritis often find sudden movement, coughing or sneezing after suffering a bad flu can cause this condition to flare up. Sometimes even certain forms of exercise or physical activity can aggravate the pain.
In the long run lifestyle changes will be required to reduce the pain associated with this condition.
Costochondritis affects all aspects of your life and sometimes the most active person can see their life impacted by this condition.
Any age group can fall prey to the symptoms and both male and female sufferers can see this condition impact their lifestyle in a major way.
When one learns that they have costochondritis, they often find it bewildering and will wonder how on earth they could get this condition. It often appears out of nowhere or so it might seem and in the beginning when you start suffering the symptoms of costochondritis, you often can confuse them for other conditions like heart problems.
You could be young, old, fit, unfit, healthy or unhealthy and one thing you might all have in common is costochondritis. No one is eliminated from contacting this condition.
Why, does one get Costochondritis? Well, no one really knows.
The NHS in the United Kingdom concluded that Costochondritis can occur due to straining your chest from excessive coughing, injury, a viral infection or chest trauma. Any one of these can then put a strain on your chest area and can all be a contributing factor to getting costochondritis. If you work in a very physical intensive job or you have a very active lifestyle doing sports or excessive exercising, then these could factor in to why you might be prone to this condition.
However not every sufferer will experience one of these issues, and will still get it which can be even more confusing as to why you now suffer from this condition.
It can take a while to get a diagnosis for costochondritis. Many times doctors will carry out other tests like ECG or Holter test to ensure you are not having issues with your heart.
There are lots of websites and forums out there that can be of great help to sufferers. Many sufferers themselves are more inclined to look at alternative medicine, specific foods, or medicine, to help them cope with this condition and continue to live their life as pain free as possible.
Do you suffer from costochondritis?
First time symptoms of Costochondritis
Costochondritis is a very painful condition. The first flare up will be very severe and will be extremely scary. Anyone who has had experience of chest pain knows that is can be very painful and extremely uncomfortable.
I initially had flu like symptoms along with chest pain. I couldn't eat and had difficulty breathing. Luckily I got diagnosed pretty early on which is not always the case.
Due to this, one might initially suspect that the symptoms could be due to a heart condition, not costochondritis. Many of us will suspect that we are having heart problems due to the mimicking of pain in the same area. That is why it is important to get it checked out immediately.
If you experience any pain in and around the chest area, you should always be checked out in case it is your heart. Due to Costochondritis pain been in and around the same area, it is even more important to check out pain located here in case it is something different.
The pain is extremely unique to each person and everybody will experience it in different areas and at different levels.
For me personally it sometimes feels like pins and needles and other times especially in the centre of my chest, it feels like something is pressing down in that area or pinching. I describe my pain to people by saying imagine you have a cross on your chest and back where pain radiate from.
What to do if you have Costochondritis
The first step to take to find out if it is in fact costochondritis you are suffering from is to visit you doctor.
While self diagnosing is fine, you really do need to get proper treatment and confirmation that you are in fact suffering from costochondritis.
This is to ensure that you really are not suffering from a heart condition.
Have you your costochondritis under control?
How you get diagnosed with Costochondritis
To confirm that a patient does not have heart problems, the doctor will carry out different tests to eliminate variables. A patient could have underlying conditions like angina or a blockage in the heart which is extremely serious. If the tests come back negative, they will look at your lifestyle to see if there are any other underlying issues to help determine a diagnose.
If a patient has pain in their breastbone, simple pressing down on this area of the patient will cause extreme discomfort. This is a key symptom of Costochondritis.
The doctor will start from under the chin and continuing down the chest to the sternum they will press each area to see how severe your pain is. The littlest bit of pressure will cause immediate pain. Sensitivity here is a key factor in helping the doctor determine if this is the condition you have.
The pressure on the chest area will be extremely unpleasant and you will be extremely sore each time the doctor presses on this area. Once you get a diagnosis you can start to move on with your life and start learning to live with your conditions
What causes Costochondritis
How does costochondritis pain occur?
According to the Mayo Clinic, Costochondritis is caused when the cartilage that connects your ribs to the breastbone becomes inflamed.
When the inflammation occurs it ends up putting pressure on the breastbone and then, this in turn results in the pain in this general area.
Factors behind the cause of this condition are linked to things such as suffering a severe trauma to the chest area, a recent surgery on the chest area or a viral infection. If a patient has experienced one of these conditions then they are more susceptible to it.
But costochondritis sufferers might not have undergone any surgery and can still get costochondritis. In this case, the only thing that might be behind costochondritis could be a viral infection, excess pressure put on the chest maybe because of asthma or excessive coughing.
Some symptoms associated with Costochondritis
How do you know if you have costochondritis?
Certain things might convince you more that others that you have costochondritis. They could be:
Tenderness in the breastbone where the cartilage is connected to your ribs
A feeling of excessive pressure or a pinching type of pain in your chest area
Pain spreading from your side to your back, around the shoulder blade area
Difficulty in breading due to pressing pain in chest
An aggravated pain which is intensified when you sneeze or cough
Often cold or hot weather can influence the symptoms
Stress can also lead to costochondritis symptoms and anxiety can lead to a tightness in the chest area which aggravates this conditions
When you get diagnosed with costochondritis by a doctor, be aware that it can disappear but for some people it never goes away. It is just in hibernation and a flare up can occur and any time.
How to avoid getting Costochondritis back
There are some lifestyle changes you can do to avoid getting costochondritis back.
If you don't live with it on a daily basis, then you are one of the lucky ones as most people who suffer from it, do so on a daily basis. But even if you don't have it each day, you still need to be aware that it can come back at a later date so ensure that you don't do these things which could cause a relapse.
Things to avoid doing.
1) Heavy Lifting. This is one thing you should avoid doing as heavy lifting will aggravate your chest area /upper torso which can bring on costochondritis symptoms.
2) Working in the Garden. While light gardening work is allowed, any gardening that involves heavy lifting of rocks, blocks, paving flags, or heavy shrubs/ trees can bring on costochondritis symptoms a few days later. Light gardening like planting vegetables or flowers are fine and won't aggravate your costochondritis. (Lifting large heavy things or digging up and moving large shrubs in your garden will cause costochondritis symptoms which I suffered from for 3 days with the pain).
3) Moving Furniture. This is one thing that many of us do and don't think will have any repercussions. While you might not think lifting heavy furniture or bed frames will be an issue, in fact it can cause major issues especially for those who suffer from costochondritis. Be sensible and let someone else do the heavy lifting.
4) Getting Sick. It is vital if you suffer from costochondritis that you try to stay healthy. Take Vitamin C and D either as a supplement or by increasing your intake of food high in these vitamins. You need to try to avoid getting colds, the flu or even a viral infection. Start taking vitamin supplements in tablets form or water based form to help keep your immune system in tip top shape especially in winter.
Getting sick can aggravate your costochondritis. If you get sick, you can expect lots of coughing, sneezing and a fever. Trying to cope with this will put extreme pressure on your respiratory system. Once you recover from your flu, your body will be at its weakest and the coughing and sneezing will have put pressure on your chest area and this will aggravate your costochondritis. For the next week or two you can expect to have pain in your upper body especially in the chest, ribs and back area.
5) Cold Weather. It is vital to stay as warm as possible on those cold days. I find that winter months extremely difficult as I find it aggravate my condition. Those who live in cold climates need to avoid being outdoors for long periods of time. If you must go outside, try to wrap up warm and spend as little time as possible standing outside in the cold as you can.
How to cope with Costochondritis when you get it
Now that you know the ways on how to get costochondritis, here are the ways to cope with the pain when you get it.
Prescription for costochondritis as an ongoing condition:
1) Anti-inflammatory Gel: Apply a strong prescription anti- inflammatory gel (prescription if possible) 3 times a day.
2) Anti-inflammatory Pill: Nurofen or Ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory pain killer. Follow the dosage instruction on the pack or whatever your doctor advises. Take the pain killers for 3 days at most. After 3 days switch to the other option. Talk to your pharmacist or doctor if the pain is persistent after 5 days.
3) If the pain is mild, then you might be able to survive by taking Paracetamol. It isn't as strong or as addictive as the other two. But be aware that you should only take them when you are suffering from pain. Don't become addicted to them.
4) Another option is to try hot and cold treatments. Apply a hot water bottle to your chest area if the pain is excessive to help ease the pain to a dull throb. You can also apply cool compresses or patches that can help ease the pain.
5) Transdermal patches: There are patches you apply onto your skin to the area that the pain is radiating from. These are usually prescription based. They work like a gel to gradually over a few hours relieve pain.
Exercising with Costochondritis
If you like exercising you will find you will have to adjust your exercise routine now that you have costochondritis.
Exercise that put pressure on your chest area like weightlifting or push ups can aggravate your chest area and cause a flare up of costochondritis.
I myself am very cautious when using dumbbells as early on I noticed that excessive stretching above my head or behind my back using these can aggravate the chest area. So to reduce the chance of me straining my chest area and causing a flare up, I avoid doing these routines.
On the days when you suffer from costochondritis, you need to slow down and take it easy. Try to avoid doing as much as possible. Things like vacuuming, cleaning and bending down can aggravate your pain. .
Over time, you will learn to recognise the symptoms of costochondritis and will know with a flare is coming on. When you start feeling the symptoms of costochondritis, don't do anything like strenuous work or exercises that can affect it.
Costochondritis is an unusual condition because some people can get the condition and only experience it once in their life. Then they never have another flare up.
However, those sufferers who aren't as lucky to get over this condition can have it for life. Sometimes, it can go away for weeks/months at a time, and then when you don't expect it, you can get a flare up. For those who have to live with it on a daily basis, it can affect their job, lifestyle and can stop you from doing things you normally took for granted.
There is no specific time frame where you can expect to never suffer from costochondritis. While winter time can be especially difficult for costochondritis sufferers, flare ups can also occur in the summer months. If you work in a high stress job, or you have exams coming up, or you are suffering from stress due to a recent upset in your life, like bereavement, then this can also aggravate your costochondritis.
Coping with costochondritis is something you will have to learn to cope with as an individual. You will find your own ways of coping with it and what works for one might not work for another.
Keeping the pain at bay and coping with it either by using gel, painkiller or lifestyle changes can help sufferers cope.
There is no cure for this condition but sufferers can get cortisone injections which can help some people cope better with it and can even help eliminate the pain.
The first time you suffer costochondritis is the worst, but after that your symptoms might not be as severe. But for some this is not always the case. Each time they get a flare up the pain can be as bad as the previous time.
© 2011 Sp Greaney