Rib Pain as Costochondritis
Costochondritis is an injury to the ribs on the front portion of the chest. The injury occurs right where the bony rib connects to the rib cartilage. There is usually sharp pain right at the site of the injury. There can also be localized swelling.
Cartilage is the flexible soft tissue that has some shape to it. Ears are cartilage. They have a defined firm shape, but they can bend, flex and fold. The tip of the nose is also cartilage. Cartilage allows for flexibility and movement. There is a section of the rib which is made up of cartilage. That section is about 1-2″ long and located right at the breast-bone, or sternum. Having this cartilage there, allows the ribs to move as we breathe. If the ribs were entirely bone, they could not flex enough for us to breathe.
Right where the bony-rib and cartilage-rib connect is called the costochondral junction. It is a weak spot in our anatomy. The seam connecting the bone and cartilage is not very strong and it is prone to separation.
The pain from this injury can be very sharp and can limit how deeply one can breathe. Since the pain is in the chest, some people might think they are having a heart attack and they report to the ER.
The treatment for costochondritis includes reducing the local inflammation using ultrasound, balancing the muscle tissues in the intercostal muscles, and normalizing the movements of the ribs using gentle manipulation techniques. Remember the ribs are designed to move (that’s how you breathe). Having proper rib motion is critical to proper breathing. If you have ever gone to a yoga class, you know the first lesson taught is all about proper breathing.
Home therapy for costochondritis includes ice application to the area. Quite often a person who is doing weight-lifting needs to take it easy until the injury heals.
I see this condition frequently my St George Utah chiropractic office. Last week, I had three patients who had this condition.
Dr. Andrew White