If you're an avid reader of this site, it is no secret that I have a few chronic conditions that have plagued me for several years. I have spoken several times about my various illnesses which you can read about in My Chronic Illness & My Story. When I mention one illness in particular many people have never heard of it, they don't know what costochondritis is or what it really feels like when you are experiencing what can only be described as a debilitating pain that feels like you could possibly be having a heart attack.
What is costochondritis? Basically put it is an inflammation in the wall of your chest where the ribs connect to the breast bone resulting in pain which can be sharp or tender to the touch. This inflammation can be mild to severe, can last for several weeks then disappear or can be chronic. I have it chronically. For a more detailed technical explanation check out NHS Site or Wikipedia's article.
The cause of costochondritis is thought to be through infection as inflammation is the body's way of dealing with it, although the actual cause is unknown like many chronic illnesses! I believe mine started because I had a chest infection that just wouldn't go away, I have however read that injury to the chest area, physical strain or general wear and tear can cause the chest wall to become inflamed.
Ok so that's some of the technical parts, let's get down to business and let mw tell you what it really feels like when you are going through a particularly painful bout of costochondritis. As I mentioned earlier the pain can be sharp, that is a bit of an understatement when it is really bad, it feels like someone is stabbing me right through my chest with wolverines adamantium claws, wrapping their fingers around my heart and squeezing as hard as they possibly can. I can't speak about the pain someone feels during a heart attack but I imagine that it is something similar to that. I remember being so scared the first time as I thought there was something wrong with my heart. I was terrified I thought I was going to die. Even to this day I still get a little worried when its bad, all reason goes out the window and I automatically jump to the conclusion that something is seriously wrong. Then rational finally kicks in & the panic subsides a little. This typically happens maybe once or twice a month, taking several days to ease off. The rest of the time the pain is dull but is always there niggling away in the background. Source
My chest pops a lot. You know when your knuckles pop like that but right in the middle of my chest. It is so weird and uncomfortable. I have been known to cry out in pain because of a sneeze, cough even a particularly violent hiccup can leave me close to tears,
The pain doesn't just affect the chest area. I have pain around my ribs almost constantly as well as my upper back. The rib pain can be so uncomfortable that it's difficult to sit, stand. even lie down because I cannot get my body into a comfortable position. Any parents out there will know that your kids are constantly crawling over you, mine is no exception and with the constant rib pain comes the constant fear of alex trying to climb all over mr or wanting held when I can barely have clothes pressed against my ribs because they are that sore. Don't even get me started on the discomfort felt when wearing bras, that is a whole other post for later.
When it comes to relieving the pain nothing really takes it away. I tend to take anti inflammatories and co-codemal when it is really bad but I try not to rely on pain meds. Heat sometimes helps and I have in the past fallen asleep with a hot water glued to my chest! Which is great in the winter, not so much in the summer though.
Do you have costochondritis or had it, what did find helped with the pain and discomfort?
As always thank you for reading. Please feel free to like, share and comment on this post.