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Costochondritis Symptoms

Costochondritis Symptoms

Costochondritis refers to inflammation of the area of the cartilage that acts as the connecting medium between a rib and the breastbone in the human body. This area is known as the costochondral joint. This article gives you a brief insight into the important symptoms of costochondritis.
Rajib Singha
Costochondritis, although may sound intimidating, does not cause any long-lasting problem. The condition does not have any specific cause, but is associated with a few medical conditions. These may include infections of the upper respiratory tract, arthritis, infection of the rib joint, and tumors. Severe or chronic coughing or physical activities that strain the chest area may also trigger the inflammation of the costochondral joint. Some people may develop costochondritis because of bacterial infections contracted after surgery of their breastbone or from intravenous drugs. Women and people older than 40 are considered more susceptible to this condition, and so are those in the age group of 12 to 14 years.
Main Symptoms of Costochondritis
» The main symptom that occurs when the costochondral joint inflames is a localized pain in the chest region. This pain is usually accompanied by a tenderness in the region of the upper ribs. However, chest pain and tenderness could be caused by other conditions too. So the most characteristic symptom of costochondritis is when you can reproduce these two symptoms by pressing on the costochondral joint.
» The pain caused by costochondritis mostly occurs on the left side of the breastbone. The pain aggravates with deep breaths or any other movements of the trunk, and lessens with decreased movement and slow breathing. The pain may be felt in one or multiple ribs, and it may radiate to the back or the abdominal region.
» The above symptoms of costochondritis, sometimes, could be accompanied by swelling in the junction of the ribs and cartilage. Then, the condition is known as Tietze syndrome. Also in case of Tietze syndrome, the chest pain radiates to the arms and shoulders.
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The chest pain that occurs in costochondritis could be taken for a sign of heart attack. Although, it is difficult to distinguish between the two conditions, costochondritis has a localized pain while heart attack causes a more widespread pain in the chest.
Treatment Plan
Most cases of costochondritis run for a few weeks before they resolve on their own without any treatment. Doctors may recommend certain medicines to manage the symptoms. These may include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), antidepressants and muscle relaxants. In some people, drugs may fail to reduce pain and this may interfere with their day-to-day activities. Such people may be given a local anesthetic and steroid injection in the problem area. Costochondritis that is caused by a bacterial infection may be managed by antibiotics. Surgery is mostly reserved for patients who do not respond to medicines. Here, surgeons may remove the affected cartilage to treat the problem.
Apart from medical therapy, there are a few self-care measures that patients may follow to make themselves comfortable and cope with their symptoms.
☛ Activities which might aggravate the chest pain must be avoided.
☛ Although rest is necessary, it must not keep patients from doing light exercises such as walking or swimming. However, the intensity of such exercises must be moderate.
☛ Application of heating pad (on low setting) to the painful area also helps in alleviating the pain. If swelling is also present, then icing the area may help. Direct contact between the skin and the ice must be avoided.
☛ As the pain subsides, patients may gradually resume their normal activities, but with ease.
Speaking of preventing costochondritis, there is no definite method to do it. However its risks can be reduced by avoiding conditions that contribute to its development. These may include managing arthritis, avoiding exposure to infections, abstaining from physical activities that may constantly put strain on the chest, and treating problems such as chronic coughing.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader.It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.