Are you having strange chest pains that doctors can’t seem to make sense of? If you’ve had weird chest pains before, and you’re under 40 years of age, you may have gone to the ER only to be told that “nothing is wrong with you” and “it’s just anxiety”.
What the doctor may be overlooking is a condition called costochondritis. This condition is fairly common, and it affects approximately 200,000 people per year in the United States alone.
What Is Costochondritis?
Costochondritis (pronounced COST OH KON DRY TIS) is an inflammation of the cartilage that connects your rib to your breastbone (sternum).
The pain caused by costochondritis can range from mild to severe. For example, a mild case may cause your chest to feel tender to the touch, or you may only feel pain if you press on a certain area of your chest.
A severe case of costochondritis can cause unbearable chest pain that could also be accompanied by shooting pains that travel down your arms. (This could also be a sign of a heart attack, so if you’re having these symptoms, seek immediate medical care.)
What Causes Costochondritis?
Costochondritis can be caused by a variety of lifestyle circumstances and underlying health issues.
Chest trauma (blunt impact from a fall, being hit in the chest with a heavy object, or a car accident)
Heavy lifting and strenuous exercise
Respiratory conditions such as tuberculosis or syphilis (these can cause joint inflammation)
What Are the Symptoms of Costochrondritis?
The symptoms of costochondritis can be different depending on the person, their health, and the severity of their condition.
The most common symptoms are:
Pain in the upper and middle rib area that may travel to the back or abdomen
Chest pain that increases when moving, stretching, coughing, lifting, or taking deep breaths
A feeling of pressure in the chest
Tenderness when affected ribs are pressed where they meet the breastbone
Pain located on the left side of the breastbone
Pain that affects at least one rib (but usually affects more)
Note: You may also notice a decrease in pain when your body is at rest and you are breathing calmly.
How Is Costochondritis Treated?
The majority of cases of costochondritis are treated with over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or naproxen. Your doctor may also recommend a reduction in strenuous exercise, temporary bed rest, gentle stretching exercises, physical therapy, hot or cold therapy, and/or the use of a TENS unit.
Lifestyle Changes That Can Help Treat Costochondritis
As with any inflammatory condition, chronic costochondritis may indicate an underlying problem with chronic inflammation, which may indicate severe allergies and/or an autoimmune disease.
Also, there is a strong connection between celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity and chronic inflammation. If you have either of these conditions, a gluten-free diet can help ease your pain considerably.
Furthermore, if you’re living with any type of chronic pain, it’s a good idea to stop eating fast food and other convenience foods as they are loaded with inflammation-causing ingredients, and they may make your symptoms worse.
Instead, opt for an anti-inflammatory diet consisting of organic vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, meat, poultry, and fish.
There are also certain herbs that have been shown to decrease inflammation naturally.
Turmeric is a kitchen spice commonly associated with Indian cuisine. Multiple scientific studies have shown it to be beneficial in the natural treatment of certain chronic pain conditions.
Boswellia, also known as Indian frankincense, is a powerful natural anti-inflammatory that has been shown to effectively treat osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and IBD.
Ginger has been shown to reduce inflammation and muscle soreness after exercise. It may also reduce inflammation linked to breast cancer, colitis, diabetes, and kidney damage.
Always Go to the ER If You Have Chest Pain
You should always seek immediate medical care if you have chest pain, especially if this is your first time having chest pain, regardless of your age. While chest pain may indicate something like costochondritis, it could also indicate serious heart problems.
If this is a recurring problem for you, talk with your doctor about the possibility of costochondritis and what he or she thinks you should do to treat it.
Natural remedies and lifestyle changes are a good way to go, but only if you know exactly what you’re dealing with.
If you’ve been having strange chest pains, and your doctors can’t figure out what’s going on, it could be costochondritis. Talk with your doctor about this possibility, and if he or she does not listen or take you seriously, seek a second opinion. You deserve to be heard, helped, and treated with respect.