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How Costochondritis Could Explain Your Chest Pains

Sp Greaney has been suffering from costochondritis for over 10 years.


Costochondritis (koss-toe-con-DRY-tiss) is a condition that can make life difficult for those that suffer with it. It can also affect people in many different ways.

Some people can experience a flare-up once to twice a year, but for many other individuals, it could be a lifelong condition that they have to learn to live with for the rest of their life.

Flare-ups can occur at any time and without very little notice. In this article, we will explore several aspects of this condition, including its causes, who it effects, common symptoms, and how to deal with it.

Costochondritis Is Caused by Inflamed Cartilage

According to the Mayo Clinic, costochondritis occurs when inflammation occurs between the cartilage that connects your ribs to your breastbone. When the cartilage becomes inflamed, it causes extra pressure around the breastbone area, and it is this pressure that causes the pain associated with costochondritis.

The United Kingdom's NHS concluded that costochondritis can occur due to straining your chest from excessive coughing, injury, a viral infection, or chest trauma.

Any one of these factors can then put a strain on your chest area and this can then contribute to the cause of costochondritis. If you also work in a very labor-intensive job or if you have a very active lifestyle, then these could also be additional factors as to why you might be more prone to getting this type of condition.

However, many people might get diagnosed with this condition and be quite confused about how they got it beause they do not do any activities that could lead to them excessively straining their chest.

It can also for some sufferers take quite a while for them to get a diagnosis of costochondritis. Doctors will often carry out other tests on you, such as an ECG or a Holter test, to ensure that you are not having issues with your heart.

Symptoms of Costochondritis

Costochondritis will manifest itself as some sort of pain in the chest area, including:

  • Tenderness in the breastbone where the cartilage is connected to your ribs
  • A feeling of excessive pressure or a pinching in your chest area
  • Pain spreading from your side to your back around the shoulder blade area
  • Difficulty breathing due to pain in the chest
  • Pain that is aggravated when you sneeze or cough
  • Sensitivity to cold or hot weather

Stress can also lead to costochondritis-like signs. Anxiety also sometimes causes tightness in the chest, which aggravates these symptoms.

See Your Doctor First

If you're experiencing chest pain, the first thing you should do is visit a doctor. You need to get proper treatment and confirmation that you are, in fact, suffering from costochondritis and not a more severe heart condition.

The inflamed cartilage puts pressure on the chest, which causes pain.

The inflamed cartilage puts pressure on the chest, which causes pain.

How Do Doctors Diagnose This Condition?

Some physicians may carry out other tests to determine that you do not have an underlying heart condition prior to diagnosing you with costochondritis.

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A patient could have underlying conditions such as angina or a blockage in the heart, which are extremely serious. If these tests come back negative for any heart problems, then they will look at the lifestyle that you lead to see if there are any other underlying issues to help them determine a cause behind this condition.

Test for Costochondritis

The test that is carried out to determine if a patient is suffering from costochondritis involves a physician pressing down on the upper chest and sternum area. If you have costochondritis, then this pressure will be extremely painful. This is a key symptom of costochondritis, pain in the upper chest area.

The doctor will continue pressing down on your upper chest area and gradually move down toward your lower chest area close to your sternum. At each stage they are assessing your reaction to the pressure to see how painful the area is. The littlest bit of pressure will cause immediate pain.

Sensitivity here is a key factor in helping the doctor determine if you have costochondritis or not—the pressure will feel extremely unpleasant and you will be sore each time the doctor presses on this area. Once you get a diagnosis, you can start to move on with your life and learn to live with your conditions.