The Truth About Costochondritis Or Sternum Injury And What You Can Do About It
Costochondritis, pain in the sternum can be a pain in the @ss!
Costochondritis, which is otherwise known as chest wall pain, is something that you seriously want to avoid. The pain can be intense, and many have described it as feeling like a heart attack! If you are suffering from this then sympathy is in order. So what is it all about?
What Is Costochondritis?
It is an injury to the sternum. The cartilage that connects a rib to the sternum (or breastbone) becomes inflamed. Costochondritis is also known as costosternal chondrodynia and costosternal syndrome for the technical among you. It is also known as chest wall pain for the rest of us.
Similar to Costochondritis is Tietze syndrome. This is a slightly different condition which has similar symptoms. Inflammation is the cause again, but this time there is a swelling of the sternoclavicular, costochondral or costosternal joints.
Costochondritis can be caused by performing dips and heavy lifting. Other forms of strenuous exercise can cause it or a sharp blow to the chest. Infections to the chest can also be a cause.
What Kind Of Symptoms Can You Expect?
You will experience chest pain at the front of your chest. It can be very severe and is usually sharp and stabbing in nature. When you move it will feel much worse, any kind of exertion or deep breathing will intensify the pain. Coughing can cause extreme pain.
You need to avoid any pressure on the affected chest area as this is likely to cause a severe and sharp pain. It is possible that you will feel an aching pain with Costochondritis.
Often the pain is confined to a small area of your chest but don’t take this as read as it can spread wider than this. It is not that uncommon for Costochondritis to spread to your back or your abdomen and as a result you can suffer from stomach pain and back pain.
What Can You Do To Treat It?
Want to hear the really bad news first? It is very common for Costochondritis to last for several weeks and sometimes months.
Great, what’s the good news then? It usually goes away on its own.
The first thing to do is visit your doctor and confirm that you do have Costochondritis. Once you know that, treatment for it really needs to focus on pain relief.
The more conservative treatments would include applying heat pads or ice packs to the affected areas. Be careful not to apply too much heat. You also want to avoid exercises and other activities that make the pain worse.
Don’t be a hero and head straight back to the gym! You will pay for this “big time!”
You can use over the counter drugs to relieve the pain such as ibuprofen, Advil and others. Also non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs can help too.
Keep checking with your doctor here. In really severe cases, you might be prescribed narcotics containing codeine by your doctor. This can include Vicodin, Norco, Tylox, Roxicet and Perocet. Be careful with these babies as they can be addictive!
If you can’t sleep at night then the doctor can prescribe anti depressants like amitriptyline to tackle chronic pain. Again it is recommended not to overdo it with these types of drugs.
Anti seizure drugs such as Neurontin can also be successful when it comes to the relief of chronic pain.
If your case is really extreme then your doctor can provide you with a local anesthetic injection in the painful ribs area. The idea here is to block the intercostals nerve which transmits the pain. It is a temporary solution but effective.
Blocking the nerve in this way can provide pain relief for quite a while, often several weeks, and if the pain is persistent a series of these shots can be given. A series of injections can actually permanently kill the nerve that is causing the pain.
Nerve stimulation to stop the pain signals reaching your brain is also available. Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) works by sending small electric currents that interrupt or mask the signals of pain.
Some in the bodybuilding community believe that cortisone injections in the sternum is a way to fix Costochondritis. There is no scientific evidence to support this but it has worked for some.
Other alternatives are gentle stretching exercises and acupuncture.
What To Do When The Pain Subsides
There are some exercises that you can do to speed up full recovery. You can stand in a doorway and do pectoral stretches. Start with one arm raised at shoulder height then bend your elbow and put your palm on the door frame. Lean forward gently until you feel a stretch. Three sets.
You can also use a Swiss Ball. Hold the ball with arms fully outstretched and then gently hug it into your body so that there is a contraction in your chest. Hold this for 5-10 seconds. Three sets.
Another is to lie with the ball under your chest and slowly walk forward using your hands on the floor until the ball moves to your hips. 10 reps.
What Can You Do To Prevent Costochondritis?
When you are performing dips be sure not to lower your body too fast. Both sections of the movement should be controlled and smooth. Warming up first is essential.