Costochondritis – What It Is And What We Can Do About It!

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About a week ago, I noticed some lower back pain and slight pain around the back of my rib cage. I initially attributed it to a fibro flare due to the fluctuations in weather that Pittsburgh has had lately. I treated myself with ice packs and pain meds but nothing seemed to work. In fact, the pain increased and spread. I started noticing sciatica down my left leg and increasing pain in my ribs both front and back.

This happened to me two years ago (as I was reminded by my chiropractor at my appointment yesterday) but I let the pain get really bad before I checked in with my PCP. I just figured it was a really bad fibro flare and that I would rest, ice, and take ibuprofen (no other pain meds at that point) and it would go away, but it didn’t. I went to see my PCP who noticed the inflammation in my back to the point where my back was warm to the touch. She tried trigger point injections but they barely touched the pain. I was referred for an MRI scan to see if there was anything wrong and the scan showed nothing. Someone suggested seeing a chiropractor so I asked my PCP for a recommendation and made an appointment.

I got to this appointment apprehensive and slightly scared as I’d never been to a chiropractor before and “adjustments” sounded scary and painful to me. I filled out a complete health history and the doctor checked me out. She found (be prepared to cringe) that the reason for my pain and inflammation was due to the fact that every single one of my ribs were out of place and I had something called costochondritis.

Symptoms of costochondritis include:

  • Inflammation of the cartilage that connects the ribs to the breast bone
  • Sharp, aching or pressure like pain
  • Causes difficulty in taking big breaths as it worsens the pain

Currently, costochondritis has no specific cause. It just causes intense pain.

I am sitting here with an ice pack strapped to my back. During yesterday’s appointment, the chiropractor noticed that some of my ribs were out of place (AGAIN) and my hips were misaligned. She made some adjustments and nearly instantly most of the pain has disappeared. When I went two years ago, it took several appointments plus a script from my PCP for a prescription painkiller to help me function “normally” again. Surprisingly, about an hour after I returned home from my adjustment, the pain returned in full force. I have a follow up appointment on Monday. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Unfortunately, costochondritis is a common co-morbid diagnosis with fibromyalgia. What this means is that it is not uncommon to have costochondritis alongside your fibromyalgia. There are different types as well. There is chronic costochondritis which means it comes back with some sense of regularity and there is a one time type as well. Also, the level of pain that you experience can be different. I’ve had times with my chronic costochondritis that the pain was manageable and an appointment to the chiropractor was not needed.

But, the point here is that when we have fibromyalgia, we often just automatically blame new pain on the fibro. However, the pain isn’t always related to fibromyalgia. So, if you notice pain in a new area, I highly recommend going to see your doctor to see if there might be something else going on. Also, I recommend going as soon as you notice the pain — waiting like I did two years ago was NOT the best choice.

If you have questions about costochondritis or other fibro related questions, feel free to reach out. I’m always available to chat and eager to help. The best way to reach out to me here or you could email me at kate.spoonstoshare@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you, speaking with you, and helping you out with those pesky fibro (or other comorbidities)! =)


Kate Straus worked in the education field for over ten years before fibromyalgia changed her life’s path. With a background in special education and early childhood intervention, she has compiled a tool box of skills to help those with differences navigate life to make them the best that they can be. Kate has learned, herself, that while fibromyalgia can be an obstacle, it has also revealed strengths that she didn’t know she had. She is easy to work with, listens well, and is compassionate. She looks forward to using these strengths, her background, and her knowledge from the International Fibromyalgia Coaching Institute to advise others with fibromyalgia to learn how to live their new “normal” life.

 

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