Costochondritis is a medical condition characterized by inflammation of the cartilage that connects the ribs to the breastbone or sternum. The term “costochondritis” is derived from “costo,” referring to the ribs, and “chondro,” referring to cartilage. It typically causes pain and discomfort in the chest, specifically along the cartilage that joins the ribs to the sternum.
Common features of costochondritis include:
- Chest Pain: The hallmark symptom is pain in the chest, usually felt at the front of the chest, near the sternum. The pain may be sharp, stabbing, or aching and can often worsen with movement, deep breaths, or pressing on the affected area.
- Tenderness: When the affected area is touched or pressed, it is often tender and sensitive.
While it can be quite painful, it is usually not a cause for serious concern. It can be brought on by various factors, including physical strain, trauma to the chest, or respiratory infections. Sometimes, the exact cause remains unknown.
The diagnosis of costochondritis is made through a clinical evaluation by a healthcare provider. In some cases, additional tests like X-rays or blood tests may be performed to rule out other conditions with similar symptoms.
Treatment for costochondritis typically involves:
- Pain Relief: Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen may be recommended to alleviate discomfort.
- Rest and Avoiding Aggravating Activities: Reducing activities that worsen the pain can help promote healing.
- Heat or Ice: Applying heat or ice to the affected area may provide relief from pain and inflammation.
- Physical Therapy: In some cases, a physiotherapist can assist with exercises and techniques to relieve pain and improve chest mobility.
- Prescription Medications: For severe cases, a healthcare provider may prescribe stronger pain medications or anti-inflammatory drugs.
Costochondritis typically improves over time, with symptoms subsiding within a few weeks to a few months. If the pain is severe, persistent, or associated with other concerning symptoms, it is important to consult a healthcare professional to rule out more serious conditions and receive appropriate guidance and treatment.
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