After a journey that began the first week of February, this past year, and with declining health, I hope by sharing some of my story to help those of you that have been diagnosed with Costochondritis.
I developed inflammation in my abdomen that led to a small bowel obstruction and major surgery at the Cleveland Clinic. Before diagnosis there were repeated trips to the ER with crushing, burning pain in my chest, yet no tests revealed the source of pain. I was convinced it was my heart.
For five months doctors searched for clues as my bowel obstruction worsened until I had surgery at the end of June. I had spent months losing weight and vomiting, and the chest pain was continuing to spread.
Surgery corrected the obstruction and stopped the vomiting, but shortly after I developed shortness of breath. I would start shallow, fast breathing, struggling until I could take a deep gasp, and the shallow breathing would return. At a second post-op follow-up I told my surgeon I realized it was being triggered by my bra. He didn't understand why, but made a referral to a new gastroenterologist hoping to get to the bottom of my ongoing pain.
By a thorough examination by my new GI he determined the source of my pain (but not the cause) and referred me to a chronic pain management physician, and I was diagnosed with Cosochondritis. By this time it was early November. I had been subjected to one test after another - all coming back normal. During the exam the CPM doctor noticed I was wearing a sports bra and he asked if I had traded in my under-wires for sports bras. I had. Under-wires had become too painful. He said this is one of the first indications to a diagnosis of Costochondritis - women changing their bras because of pain. By gently pushing on the cartilage that connects to the rib cage he was able to make the diagnosis.
It's not a common condition, and one doctors tend to overlook. It can be brought on by vomiting, coughing, the flu, or chest wall trauma. The pain has been debilitating, but for the first time in months I'm being provided some much needed relief.
I'm using a TENS meter - it provides electrical stimulation using four electrode patches placed on my abdomen at the most acute source of pain. The interruption of pain as been nothing short of remarkable.
I'm also wearing a Flector patch - it's an NSAID patch meant for acute muscle pain. It's one patch every 12 hours and it helps to reduce the inflammation.
I'm also starting physical therapy in a warm water pool to restrengthen my abdominal wall, hopefully to put an end to this. Months of pulling in on myself and hunching my shoulders in an attempt to reduce the pain has aggravated my condition more. The muscles where my ribs attach to my spine have become frozen and I have acute attacks of pain at night if I fall asleep on my back because it over extends the front muscles, cartilage and sternum.
For those of you that are seeking answers there is help. Costochondritis can be chronic or acute - short term or ongoing. Doctors may say it's not a cause for serious concern, but the ongoing pain takes it's toll in the form of depression, fatigue, and restriction of your normal day to day routines.
I hope this has provided some answers, and you know you are not alone, and there's hope.