Pain relief from costochondritis comes in several forms
BY DR. KOMOROFF Universal Uclick
Tuesday, December 04, 2012
12/04/12 at 4:01 AM
Dear Doctor K: I'm a 38-year-old woman. I recently saw my doctor about a sharp pain that comes and goes in the middle of my chest. She assures me my heart is healthy. What could be causing my discomfort?
Dear Reader: The first thing your doctor worries about if you have chest pain is heart disease. Fortunately, other, less serious conditions cause chest pain more often.
From your brief description I suspect costochondritis, an inflammation of the costochondral joints. These are the joints that join your ribs to your breastbone (sternum).
The main symptom is sharp, stabbing or aching pain along the front edges of the breastbone. The pain may be felt in more than one spot; it may radiate to the back or abdomen or spread down the arm.
Costochondritis worsens when you move your torso, take deep breaths or cough. Physical exercise can also aggravate it.
Costochondritis often results from stressful physical activity or traumatic injury. It can also be caused by respiratory infections, which can inflame the costochondral joints. Strain from coughing can produce the condition. In most cases, however, there is no obvious cause.
To diagnose the condition, your doctor will apply pressure to the joints where the ribs meet the breastbone, in the part of the chest where you feel pain. If that pressure causes pain, and pressure in other areas of the chest away from the joints does not, you probably have costochondritis.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen are usually effective. You can also try pain-relieving creams. Cool compresses or heating pads and stretching exercises may help. Wearing a special support bra may provide some comfort.
Avoid wearing a sling-style purse or backpack.
With treatment, symptoms should begin to ease within a week. If your pain doesn't respond to medications, your doctor may suggest a steroid injection.
Write Dr. K at www.AskDoctorK.com or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut, Kansas City, MO 64106