Costochondritis is a condition that commonly causes chest pain in people belonging to the age group of 10-21 years of age. This article provides brief information regarding its treatment.
Costochondritis is defined as a condition of the human body, wherein the costosternal joint (a cartilage that serves as a connecting medium between the breastbone and the ribs) becomes inflamed. This medical condition may also be referred to as chest-wall pain, costosternal syndrome, and costosternal chondrodynia. Although the pain is similar to a heart attack, the condition is not life-threatening.
Causes and Symptoms
Costochondritis, in most cases, has been labeled as an idiopathic (unknown cause) condition since there are no certain or identifiable causes which bring about the onset of this illness. However, there are some factors which have been assumed to be related to the occurrence of this condition. These factors include:
- Infections in the costosternal joint due to viruses, bacteria, or fungi
- Diseases such as fibromyalgia
- Severe traumatic injuries to the chest
- Overuse of arms
- Respiratory infections caused due to viruses
- Bacterial infection in people who have undergone upper-chest surgery
The symptoms include :
- Pain on left side of the breastbone
- Pain in more than one rib
- Pain that aggravates when coughing or taking deep breaths.
Usually, costochondritis is a self-resolving condition although the pain may stay for a week or two. The main aim of the treatment is to provide relief from the pain.
- Use OTC drugs such as ibuprofen (advil, motrin, etc.) and naproxen (aleve).
- Apply cold compresses or heat to the painful area.
- Avoid participating in activities or sports that may worsen the pain.
- Take plenty of rest.
If the OTC drugs fail to improve the condition, then you may take medications prescribed by your doctor. These medicines may include:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) that are stronger than the OTC drugs.
- Narcotic pain-relieving medicines such as hydrocodone (vicodin, lortab, etc.) or oxycodone (percocet, roxilox, etc.).
- Antidepressants drugs such as amitriptyline to provide relief from pain, especially during the night.
- Some drugs such as gabapentin (neurontin, gralise, etc.), which are used to treat seizures, may also be effective in relieving the pain.
Intercostal Nerve Block
In severe cases, this procedure is performed by injecting a local anesthetic and steroid medication around the painful ribs. This blocks the nearby intercostal nerves which are responsible for transmitting the painful sensations. Thus, blockage of these nerves provides relief from the pain. The effect may last several weeks or months. If the pain recurs, then the painful nerve can be permanently destroyed with a series of injections.
- Gentle stretching exercises can be performed to improve the range of motion.
- A procedure called transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) can be performed. In this procedure, weak electric impulses are sent to the affected area with the help of a device. These impulses help prevent the painful signals from reaching the brain.
If all the conventional methods fail to improve the condition, then as a last option, the sore cartilage may be surgically removed.
Fortunately, most of the cases do not have any sort of complications, and the patient recovers quickly. However, in case of costochondritis caused by infections, the patient may take a long time to recover as the treatment may involve intravenous antibiotics or surgery.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.