Costochondritis is an inflammation of the cartilage connecting a rib to the breastbone (sternum). The pain caused by costochondritis may feel similar to that of a heart attack or other heart conditions. It may be commonly referred to as chest wall pain, costosternal syndrome or costosternal chondrodynia. Sometimes, swelling occurs along with the pain, this is known as the Tietze syndrome.
What Is Costochondritis
Costochondritis usually has no apparent cause but there is a treatment for easing your pain while you wait for the condition to improve on its own. It usually goes away on its own and may last for several weeks or longer.
Symptoms Of Costochondritis
- Pain on the left side of the sternum
- Sharp or aching pain or a sense of pressure in the chest
- An increase in pain when taking deep breaths, coughing, lifting, or doing any other strenuous exercise
- The pain may travel to the back or stomach from the front of your chest
- Sensitivity or tenderness on pressing the affected ribs where they meet the breastbone
- The pain decreases when you rest and breathe calmly
However, If you experience chest pain, you should seek immediate medical attention to rule out any life-threatening causes or a heart attack.
Causes for Costochondritis
There is no clear cause established yet. However, costochondritis may be caused due:
- To an Injury to the chest
- Sudden Physical strain like Heavy lifting, strenuous exercise or severe coughing
- It might be linked to medical problems like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis or ankylosing spondylitis
- Joint infection or infection of the rib joint because of viruses, bacteria and fungi causing tuberculosis, syphilis or aspergillosis
- Noncancerous and cancerous tumors from the breast, thyroid or lung may reach the joint
- Post-surgery or post-intravenous (IV) needle infections
Costochondritis occurs mostly in women and people above 40 years of age. Tietze syndrome usually occurs in teenagers and young adults with equal frequency in men and women.
Your physician may prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), pain relievers or narcotics containing codeine, Antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs, depending on the severity of your pain.
In severe cases, numbing medicine or corticosteroids may be injected directly into the painful rib joints to ease pain and relieve inflammation. Costochondritis treatment may also include physical therapy and rest.
Natural Remedies for Costochondritis
There are these natural remedies you may try but after consulting with your doctor:
1. Costochondritis stretches may be very helpful in managing and easing sternum pain. You can consult a physiotherapist or ask your doctor to demonstrate the same.
2. Use heat or ice packs but not for more than 15 minutes at a time. Wrap the heat or cold source in a towel or washcloth to avoid direct skin damage.
3. Consider anti-inflammatory foods, herbs or supplements because inflammation is the root cause of costochondritis. If you don’t prefer the anti-inflammatory drugs prescribed and prefer a natural approach, after consulting with your doctor you may take certain herbs and supplements to fight inflammation with diet. However, ensure to learn how will these interact with NSAIDs, steroids, diabetes drugs and other medications.
- Focus on a diet rich in a variety of vegetables and fruits, healthy fats via walnuts, fatty fish like salmon or mackerel, and olive oil or coconut oil
- Include chia seeds and ground flaxseeds, cocoa or dark chocolate into your diet
- Try seasoning your foods with bone broth, turmeric and ginger to get an extra anti-inflammatory boost
- Green tea
- Other anti-inflammatory or pain-relieving herbs and supplements like arnica, bilberry, boswellia (Indian frankincense), bromelain, chamomile, devil’s claw, fennel, ginseng, grape seed extract, nettle, silymarin/ silibinin or milk thistle seed extract
4. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)– the pain in the Sternum can be very persistent. Your physicist may also suggest TENS treatment. It can be an effective pain relief method for some people with costochondritis.
In TENS therapy, a small device sends weak electrical currents to try to interrupt or mask the pain signals your body sends your brain. In this therapy sticky patches are attached to your skin near the painful area. For some people, it relieves pain and relaxes their muscles. It is also possible that TENS boosts your production of endorphins which is your body’s natural painkillers.