Costochondritis is a medical condition that is characterized by inflammation at the junction of a rib and the costal cartilage that connects it to the sternum. This write-up provides information on the contributing factors and symptoms of this medical condition.
Our rib cage comprises twelve pairs of ribs, the first seven of which are known as true ribs. One end of these rib bones is connected to the spinal cord, whereas the other end is attached to the sternum through cartilage. The next three pairs, also known as false ribs, are attached to the cartilage of the seventh rib. The last two pairs are called floating ribs. These are connected only to the spine at the back. At times, the cartilage which connects the upper ribs with the sternum might get inflamed, thereby causing localized chest pain. This condition is known as costochondritis. It is also known as chest wall pain, costosternal syndrome and costosternal chondrodynia.
▶ Trauma to the rib cage is one of the common causes of this medical condition. A blow to the chest or repeated minor injuries to the chest area could be responsible for the inflammation.
▶ Rib cage injuries could be caused due to motor vehicle accidents. If the driver ends up slamming his/her chest against the steering wheel, it can cause inflammation and rib pain.
▶ Inflamed cartilage could also be caused due to overuse injuries. Forceful swinging of arms in sports such as rowing, tennis, or golf could cause inflammation.
▶ Inflammation in the costosternal joint could also be attributed to bacterial, fungal, or viral respiratory infections. Those affected by fibromyalgia might also experience recurring chest pain due to an inflamed costosternal joint.
Inflammation of the costosternal joint can give rise to a host of distressing symptoms. These include:
▶ Sharp pain and tenderness over the costosternal joint
▶ Constant, dull gnawing chest pain
▶ Tightness in the chest
▶ Pain might radiate to the back or the abdomen.
Since the rib cage is supported by intercostal muscles that allow the rib cage to expand and drop as one inhales and exhales, therefore, inflammation of the cartilage could give rise to:
▶ Painful breathing
▶ Pain that worsens while taking deep breaths, coughing, and sneezing
▶ Pain that worsens with jerky movements and strenuous physical activity
Though the symptoms might resolve within a couple of weeks, it would be best to seek medical assistance. One must also follow certain self-care measures. It is essential to take rest. The affected individual must refrain from performing any physical activity that might put pressure on the costosternal joint. Application of heating pads to the chest might also help provide relief. In case of severe pain, doctors usually prescribe muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatory drugs. Anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen are quite effective in alleviating the symptoms of costochondritis.
Since trauma to the ribcage is a common contributory factor for inflamed sternum, rib cage pain, and costosternal joint pain, those who have recently sustained a rib cage injury must get themselves medically examined. Taking the prescribed drugs and following self-care measures will certainly help in alleviating the symptoms of this condition.
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.