Costochondritis or costochondritis is inflammation of the cartilage that connects the sternum to the ribs. Costochondritis is one of the causes of chest pain, both in children and adults.

Chest pain caused by costochondritis can be mild or severe. In some cases, the symptoms of costochondritis can resemble chest pain due to a heart attack.

Costochondritis often clears up on its own within a few weeks. However, sometimes treatment by a doctor is needed, especially if the symptoms do not improve or even get worse.

Causes of Costochondritis

It's not known what causes costochondritis. However, there are a number of factors thought to be associated with this disease, namely:

  • Severe cough that makes chest pain
  • Injury to the chest, for example from a collision or accident
  • Exercising excessively or lifting weights that are too heavy
  • Infections caused by viruses, bacteria or fungi, such as aspergillosis , respiratory infections, syphilis and tuberculosis .
  • Arthritis, such as osteoarthritis, ankylosing spondylitis , or rheumatoid arthritis
  • Tumors, both benign and malignant (cancer)

Costochondritis Symptoms

Symptoms of costochondritis are pain in the chest that can appear suddenly or develop slowly. Pain tends to be felt in the left breastbone with the following characteristics:

  • The chest feels like it is being stabbed or pressed
  • Pain is felt in more than one rib
  • Pain can spread to the stomach and back
  • Pain worsens when moving, lying down, coughing, sneezing, or taking deep breaths

When to see a doctor

Chest pain can be caused by many conditions. Some of these conditions have the potential to be fatal, such as a heart attack or stroke . Therefore, consult a doctor if you experience chest pain accompanied by nausea, cold sweats , and shortness of breath.

Consult your doctor again if you have been diagnosed with costochondritis but chest pain persists even after taking medication.

Examination also needs to be done quickly if signs of infection appear , such as redness, swelling, and pus coming out of the rib area.

Diagnosis of Costochondritis

Before carrying out a supporting examination, the doctor will ask about the symptoms the patient is experiencing. After that, the doctor will carry out a physical examination by feeling the patient's rib area.

Pain caused by costochondritis can be similar to pain due to heart disease, lung disease, or disorders of the joints and digestive system. Therefore, the doctor will carry out the following examinations to rule out the possibility that pain is caused by these diseases:

  • EKG
  • Heart echo
  • X-ray
  • CT scans
  • MRIs

Costochondritis Treatment

Costochondritis often clears up on its own within weeks or months. While waiting for the symptoms to improve, the patient can make some simple efforts, such as:

  • Get enough rest
  • Do chest muscle stretching exercises
  • Apply warm or cold compresses to the painful area

Check with your doctor, if the chest pain you feel is quite disturbing. Doctors can prescribe a number of drugs, such as:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) , eg ibuprofen or diclofenac
  • Pain relievers containing tramadol
  • Tricyclic antidepressants, such as amitriptyline
  • Anti-seizure medications, such as gabapentin
  • Inject corticosteroids into the painful area

Apart from drugs, doctors can also perform transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) therapy on patients . TENS aims to block pain signals from reaching the brain.

If all of the methods above are unable to relieve pain, the doctor will perform surgery to remove the part of the rib that is experiencing inflammation. This operation is performed as a last resort for the treatment of costochondritis.

Costochondritis Complications

Costochondritis is a disease that can last in the long term. In such conditions, the patient's quality of life can be disrupted. Even after treatment, costochondritis can recur, especially if the patient does excessive activities, such as lifting heavy objects.

Costochondritis Prevention

As explained above, the cause of costochondritis is not known with certainty. Therefore, this disease is difficult to prevent. However, you can prevent some of the triggers by taking the following steps:

  • Wash hands regularly
  • Avoid people who are suffering from respiratory tract infections
  • Wear a mask when outdoors
  • Do not do sports or lift weights that are too heavy
  • Wear protective clothing when driving or doing sports that involve physical contact causing collisions
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