Costochondritis: Overview, Causes, and Symptoms

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costochondritis back pain

This is an inflammation of the cartilage which connects to a rib to the breastbone (known as sternum). The pain which is caused by costochondritis can mimic the pain of the heart attack or other heart conditions. This condition is also known as costosternal chondrynia, costosternal syndrome and chest wall pain. The chest pain which is caused by costochondritis can range from mild to severe. Mild cases of costochondritis can cause your chest to feel tender to touch or to have some pain when you push on the area of your chest cartilage.

The severe cases of costochondritis can cause soothing pains which down your limbs or unbearable chest pain which interferes with your life and it does not go away. There are some cases when the swelling accompanies the pain (known as Tietze syndrome). Usually, the costochondritis has no apparent cause. The treatment is focusing on easing your pain while you are waiting for the condition to improve on its own in a period of one week or this can take several weeks or longer. Usually, the costochondritis goes away on its own and this can last for several weeks or longer. The treatment is focusing of pain relief.

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Costochondritis Symptoms

The pain which is associated with costochondritis is usually:

  • Affecting more than one rib
  • The pain is sharp, aching or pressure – like
  • It is happening on the left side of the breastbone

If you have chest pain, then you should seek emergency medical attention to rule out of life – threatening causes, such as a heart attack. Also, if you have trouble breathing, then you should see your doctor as soon as possible. If you have abnormal and debilitating pain in your chest, then you should seek emergency help as soon as possible. This can mean that you have some serious condition, such as heart attack. It is very important to get proper care as soon as possible because this will limit the possibility of complications, especially if there is some underlying cause for your costochondritis.

Your doctor will make a physical exam before he makes a diagnosis. Also, your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and the medical history of your family. When your doctor will do the physical exam, then he or she will assesses pain levels by manipulating your rib cage. Also, your doctor will look for signs of infection or inflammation. Usually, the costochondritis is not persistent condition and in the most cases it goes away on its own. The mild cases can disappear after a few days and chronic cases can last for weeks or more but they do not last any longer than a year.

costochondritis diagnosis

Costochondritis Causes

Usually, the costochondritis has no clear cause. Also, there are some cases when this disease can be caused by:

Tumors: It is known that the cancerous and noncancerous tumors can cause costochondritis. Cancer can travel to the joint from another part of the body, such as lung, thyroid or breast.

Joint infection: Fungi, bacteria and viruses (such as aspergillosis, syphilis and tuberculosis) can infect the rib joint.

Arthritis: It is known that this disease can be linked to specific problems, such as ankylosing spondylitis, rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis.

Physical strain: Severe coughing, strenuous exercise and heavy lifting are linked to costochondritis.

Injury: Blow to the chest is one example of injury which can be cause for costochondritis.

Costochondritis Risk factors

This condition most commonly happens in women and people who are older than 40. Usually, the Tietze syndrome happens in teenagers and young adults and it has equal frequency in men and women. You have increased risk of getting if you:

  • Have allergies and are frequently exposed to irritants
  • Perform manual labor
  • Participate in high – impact activities

Also, your risk of getting costochondritis is increasing if you have some of the following conditions:

  • Reactive arthritis, previously known as Reiter’s syndrome
  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

It is known that the improperly handling heavy loads can stress your chest muscles. It is recommended for young adults to lift heavy bags and backpacks with care. Adults should do the manual labor with caution.

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