Costochondritis is a condition that involves inflammation of the ribs or the cartilage that connects the ribs. It is a very painful medical condition that is harmless in nature and often goes away on its own without any advanced medical treatment. Many patients however, experience very painful episodes that require treatment in order for them to function normally. There are a number of different types of infection that can cause this disorder. Viral, fungal and bacterial infections can cause costochondritis to develop. Chest pain is often a major complaint of the disorder and is typically preceded by minor trauma to the ribcage area, vigorous exercise or an upper respiratory infection.
The pain of costochondritis can be very sharp and is typically experienced in the front of the chest although it can radiate into the back or even in the abdominal area in extreme cases. The pain is typically centered on the left side of the chest and is commonly found in the fourth, fifth and sixth ribs. The pain may increase as the patient moves the chest area or when attempting to take a deep breath.
Patients who have costochondritis accompanied by difficulty in breathing, signs of infection such as pus, swelling in the rib cage area and redness, pain that worsens or becomes more intense after taking pain medication and/or fever should seek medical attention right away as these can signal much more serious medical conditions. High fever and signs of infection are typically not associated with costochondritis. Chest pain along with sweating, pain in the left arm or shoulder and other chest pains could be symptoms of a heart attack and should be reported to a medical professional immediately. Costochondritis generally produces pain that makes it difficult to get comfortable and to take a deep breath.
Costochondritis pain relief takes on many forms and depends on the severity of the condition, the patient and the physician. Treatment at home may include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications that can be purchased over the counter. Pain medications that are typically recommended for patients with costochondritis include naproxen and ibuprofen. Applying heat and/or ice may also help to alleviate the pain associated with this condition.
It is important that you avoid rigorous exercise or any activity that may make your pain worse. Contact sports should be avoided until the symptoms significantly improve and a return to normal activity is typically recommended only as tolerated to make the patient more comfortable. While over the counter medications are typically recommended, prescribed medications may be necessary for those who experience extreme pain. Prescription Motrin and Naproxen is often given to patients who need stronger doses of the medication for pain. A local anesthetic or steroid injection directly into the affected area may also alleviate pain, particularly in patients who are not being relieved by over the counter medications or those who experience more severe pain.
Bacterial or fungal costochondritis is typically treated with IV antibiotics and then with oral medications for several weeks in order to clear up the infection. In very extreme cases, surgery may be required to provide pain relief. Surgery involves removing the cartilage that is causing the pain when other treatments do not work. Non-infectious costochondritis typically does not require emergency medical treatment and will likely clear up on its own. Patients are encouraged to take pain medication that is recommended by their physicians in order to make them more comfortable until the condition clears up. Over the counter medications taken as directed, heating pads or ice packs and plenty of rest are typically the paths recommended for patients who experience costochondritis pain. If your pain is not responding to any of these treatments, you should schedule a visit with your doctor to ensure that another condition is not evident.