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Costochondritis:


Background


Costochondritis is a painful chronic condition characterised by inflammation of the joints where the ribs attach to the sternum.


Costo = ribs

Chondr(al) = cartilage

Itis = inflammation


We have 12 paired ribs and associated cartilage for each. According to the research, often ribs 2 and 5 are most commonly affected!





Causes


There is no clear cause for costochondritis. Examples of triggers may include:

  • Trauma (e.g. falling awkwardly)

  • Repetitive overuse (e.g. lots of paddling without adequate recovery)

  • Illness

  • Strain (e.g. intense coughing)





Symptoms


People with costochondritis often report:

  • Pain with deep breathing or coughing

  • Dull pain at rest (often worse after activity and sometimes better during ) or sharp pain with certain movements (like twisting)

  • Can often be painful to touch (but not always)

  • Stiffness and general loss of movement around the mid back region


How long


There is no clear timeframes for this condition. Symptoms may occur gradually and then disappear spontaneously after weeks or sometimes up to years.


Could it be something else?


Costochondritis should be diagnosed by a health professional and not Dr Google.

This is critical as there are many conditions that may present similar to costochondritis but are in fact a lot more serious (like the heart)!





Management


Costochondritis will likely resolve with conservative management. This includes:

  • Reassurance & Education

  • Rest

  • Activity modification

  • Rehabilitation exercises

  • Heat or icepacks

  • Oral NSAIDs


Every case of Costochondritis is different. Management for it depends on the cause, the individual and your goals. Make sure you are assessed by a Physio to develop a treatment plan and get back on track!

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