When you have chest pain, you probably think of heart problems. But this does not always have to be the reason. For example, it could also be the relatively unknown costochondral disease. From causes to symptoms: We explain how you can recognize this condition.
Are rheumatic diseases common in your family? Then the chance of costochondritis increases.
What is costochondritis?
Your chest, also known as the rib cage, is made up of ribs, sternum, and a number of vertebrae. The ribs connect to your sternum via a cartilaginous structure in front. On your back, the ribs are connected to the vertebrae of the spine via small joints with a layer of cartilage. When this cartilage is inflamed, it is called costochondritis.
Although the cause of costochondritis is not really known, there are some factors that likely play a role, namely:
- Respiratory infection
- physical effort
- Emotional (in) tension
- Incorrect posture (rounded back, shoulders forward and bent forward)
- Overload or shock
- Repetitive movement that causes the chest to expand and squeezing or tightening of the ribs (coughing a lot, clearing the throat, taking deep breaths)
In addition, you run an increased risk of costochondritis if you have a family history of rheumatic diseases.
If you have costochondritis, many of the cartilage connections often become inflamed. It often includes the second through fifth ribs. In general, you often have inflammation on only one side. You can also recognize costochondritis by the following symptoms:
- Pain around the upper back (at the level of the cartilage joints)
- The pain is intense and comes in waves of attack
- Pressure on the cartilage exacerbates pain (for example, even when wearing a seat belt)
- Taking a deep breath, coughing or sneezing hurts
- Movement of the upper body causes additional pain (due to additional pressure or pulling force on the joints of the cartilage)
- The pain can radiate to the ribs, shoulder, arm, and abdomen
- Arm movements can aggravate the pain
- The pain gets worse when lying down
Since costochondritis often causes chest pain, it is always best to see a doctor to rule out heart problems first.
Read also: These are the most common (silent) heart attack symptoms
The difference between costochondritis and Tietze syndrome
Costochondritis is very similar to Tietze syndrome, but there are some important differences. In Tietze’s syndrome, the cartilage is inflamed only in the front, and in costochondritis, the back can also be inflamed. In addition, in Tietze syndrome, there is also a pronounced bulge around the sternum. There is no visible swelling in costochondritis.
Is there a cure?
There is still no cure for costochondritis. Complaints can go away on their own in a few days to weeks, but the condition can also become chronic, so that you can have them for months, years, or even the rest of your life.
Pain relievers or anti-inflammatories can often relieve symptoms, and in some cases, injections are given at the site of the inflammation. Physical therapy can also help improve posture, so that there is less pressure on the inflamed cartilage joints. You can also do relaxation and breathing exercises if needed to relieve the pain.