Do you ever feel like an elephant is sitting on your chest?

What is Costochondritis? 

Do you ever feel an aching pain in your chest? Not, metaphorically but physically? Sometimes described as a stabbing pain, or a dull ache and other times like “an elephant,” on your chest? Your chest may feel tender to the touch, your back might ache, or stomach might feel upset. It might hurt when you sneeze. Breathing deep may make it worse and exercise doesn’t seem to help. 

These are a few of the many ways people report feeling when they are experiencing a condition known as Costochondritis. 

Assuming you have already received a diagnosis from your health care provider and are reading for more information – yes, it may feel like a heart attack but it is not.

If you have not visited a health care provider or received a diagnosis, consider when you should go to a hospital

Have you scheduled your appointment and are doing research in the downtime? Here is a guide to help you prepare for your appointment. If you are worried that you might be having a heart attack or medical emergency, please call 911 immediately. 

Chest Cartilage Inflammation, it’s benign.

Costochondritis is a condition where the costal cartilages, also known as the cartilage surrounding the sternum, in the chest wall becomes inflamed. The inflammation begins to cause pain, discomfort, and other symptoms.  Inflammation, typically caused by an infection or injury, triggers a healing response from our body’s immune system. This immune response can last anywhere from several days to weeks. Inflammation that exists longer may be diagnosed as chronic inflammation.

Let the doctor take a look, diagnosing Costochondritis

Search results can often result in a self-diagnosis, even as convincing as they can be. It is vitally important that you do not self-diagnosis or attempt to treat the condition on your own. Just because it may seem like you have Costochondritis, what your experiencing could also be signs or symptoms of another more serious condition. Call your favorite health care provider or one that you feel comfortable with and make sure they give you a thorough review.

Since there is not an exact way to confirm costochondritis, your provider will conduct an exam, an interview, and they may also run tests in order to rule out other conditions before coming to the diagnosis of costochondritis.

Costochondritis, where did it come from and when will it go?

Hint: not from mars, at least we don’t think it did…

Have you lifted something particularly heavily recently, or in an odd way? Could you have strained yourself? Did you go too hard at your last yoga class? Maybe you recently got over a bad virus or a nasty cough? Do you suffer from Tietze syndrome

If you are wondering why we asked all of these questions, it is because any of these things could have caused Costochondritis. It is true, we don’t really know what exactly causes it and because of that, we cannot prevent it from happening.

Take a moment

Take a moment. Take a deep breath and try to relax. 

Take a moment for yourself, and try a relaxing breathing technique. Feel the tension release from your body. 

Let us go over some other ways we can help our bodies recover.

Being mindful of how we move our bodies

All of us could benefit from practicing being mindful of our body, how it feels, and how we move. It can be hard to avoid moving our bodies in ways that we are used to. 

However, when you are recovering with costochondritis, avoiding any activities that overuse your chest muscles is important. Results from a 2009 study of 34 patients showed that moving your body in therapeutic ways can be helpful in recovery. 

Stretches focusing on the pectoral area are great movements. Tools such as foam rollers and balls can provide helpful assist. Yogi’s looking for relief can add a few poses to their practice such as hero’s pose, Bharadvaja’s twist, and, our favorite, savasana.

TENS Machine for costochondritis

Have you hurt your back before? Strained a muscle? If so, you might be familiar with the TENS machine. 

If this is your first time hearing about the TENS machine, it is a helpful and portable device for pain relief. TENS, aka transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, is a tool used by physicians to physical therapy professionals, athletes, and a gamut of others. TENS machines typically come in a small, portable package, that can clip on your persons. They are typically battery-operated, so you can keep it in your pocket performing normal activities while it gets to work delivering electrical pulses through pads stuck to your skin. The pulses feel like minor shocks, which can be adjusted in intensity. Research shows that with proper dosing, TENS machines can be effective for pain relief. This is something that your healthcare provider may recommend, but as always, speak with your doctor before starting any therapies.

Some like it hot, and some like it cold: use both. 

Another way to tackle and soothe that the pain associated with costochondritis is a quick and easy solution. Utilizing a combo of heat and cold therapy by rotating a treatment of ice packs and steam towels can bring much-needed relief. Heat and cold treatment are recommended in combination. Heat works to help decrease pain. Ice helps with swelling, pain, and can also help prevent tissue damage. Remember, as always, make sure to speak with your health care provider or physical therapist about recommendations for heat and cold or any therapy when treating costochondritis.

Recovery is a process

It may seem like a lot, but these are just a few things that can help bring you relief when you are recovering from chest inflammation. 

Most cases of Costochondritis resolve on their own, some people may only experience their case of Costochondritis for a few days. The timeline for most cases ranges anywhere from a few days to a year.

Remember, it’s time to take a moment

You got this. You have done the research. You have talked about it with your doctor. You’ve taken a deep breath. You are ready. 

Remember to take a moment. Remember, there are many ways we can help our bodies heal. Remember, you are doing your best. You are juggling life, making decisions, managing your day to day, caring for yourself, while caring for others. It is okay to feel exhausted. It is okay to feel overwhelmed. It is okay to take a moment for yourself.

Remember, every practice or routine we incorporate into our lives in order to help us recover from illness, disease, or any kind of health issue is another act of caring for ourselves.

Resources

Stretching exercises for costochondritis pain
Costochondritis: diagnosis and treatment
Costochondritis
Integrating Acupuncture for the Management of Costochondritis in Adolescents
What is inflammation?
Chronic Inflammation
Costochondritis