October 14, 2018
Q: My teenage son often gets this pain in the middle of his chest bone that comes and goes. The doctor says that it is not a problem. Is this true?
Your son may be suffering from costochondritis. This happens when those points (costochondral/costochondral joints) where the ribs meet the breastbone (sternum) get inflammed.
Who gets costochondritis?
While older adults can suffer from costochondritis, the condition is most common in younger people, often between age 10 and 24 years of age. It is also similar to a condition called Tietze’s syndrome.
Causes of costochondritis
In the majority of cases, the cause of this type of chest pain is unknown. Other possible reasons include repeated injury to the wall of the chest, strain from coughing, excessive arm-swinging, and from infections, which are mainly viral in nature, even though bacterial and fungal infections also may cause them.
Symptoms of costochondritis
The basic symptom is chest pain which is usually sharp and found on the breastbone but can feel like it is spreading to the chest, stomach or even back.
There may be pain when the affected area is pressed; when one coughs or breathes deeply; or on lying down.
Heart disease must first be ruled out in every adult above age 35 or 40 year that presents with chest pain, especially when it is accompanied by other symptoms like dizziness or sweating. This is why your doctor may request an ECG and maybe a chest x-ray as well other tests to check your heart.
There is no specific cure for costochondritis but any or a combination of the following may help:
- Painkillers like Ibuprofen are useful for managing the pain of costochondritis but they should not be used on an empty stomach. Paracetamol also works.
- Stop straining: Apart from medication, straining of the arms or ribcage should be avoided during that period.
- Stretching exercises have been found to be quite useful as confirmed by a recent study done in Italy
- Using either cold or hot compress directly over the affected spot can be soothing.
Costochrondritis is fairly common but while it can be alarming, the good news is that rest and painkillers often solve the problems within days to weeks. However, you should consult with a doctor to help distinguish between it and a cardiac problem. And now, you don’t even need to leave your house to get that done. Simply go to www.doctordial.ng for any health-related enquiry.