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  • Writer's pictureMonique Goss

Heart Attack or Rib Injury?

What is costochondritis and how can an osteopath help?

As the winter months approach, we wanted to take this opportunity to inform you about a common condition known as costochondritis. Costochondritis is a condition that causes inflammation in the cartilage that connects your ribs to your breastbone (sternum). This inflammation can lead to chest pain and discomfort, often mimicking symptoms of a heart condition. Let’s explore this more.

Before we dive in- if you are experiencing symptoms that mimic those of a heart condition, we strongly encourage you to seek immediate medical attention to rule out any serious issues. Once a muscular or joint-related diagnosis, such as costochondritis, is confirmed, an osteopath can provide effective treatment options to help alleviate your symptoms.

It is important to recognise the signs and symptoms of costochondritis to differentiate it from more serious heart-related issues. Some common symptoms of costochondritis include:

  1. Chest pain: sharp pain or tenderness in the chest, especially near the breastbone (you can see the difficulty in ruling out a heart concern)

  2. Pain with rib movement: chest or back pain may worsen with movement of torso, deep breathing, or coughing.

  3. Tenderness to touch the joints: where the ribs meet the sternum may feel tender to the touch and can sometimes be swollen.

  4. Reduced pain when: breathing lightly, resting or applying heat to the area.

  5. Other joint restrictions: may be seen when lifting arms or moving the neck and upper back.

Osteopathic treatments for costochondritis may include manual therapy techniques, gentle movement and mobilising of the affected area, improving the breathing mechanics of the global rib cage and personalised take home care to prevent symptoms flaring.

So why is it more common in winter? We see cooler weather impacting our joints and muscles as they tighten up. Generally speaking, we tend to move less and spend more time curled and cosied up indoors. This can add more pressure to our chest due to a change in postural habits. 

Winter is also a common season for colds and respiratory infections. Coughing and sneezing associated with these infections can put extra stress on the chest wall, potentially triggering or worsening symptoms of costochondritis.

Maintaining good posture, staying physically active, and protecting against respiratory illnesses, can help reduce the risk of developing costochondritis during the winter months.

If you have been diagnosed with costochondritis or suspect that you may be experiencing symptoms related to this condition, please do not hesitate to contact us. Our team of experienced osteopaths are here to support you on your journey to better musculoskeletal health.

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