If you suffer from chest wall pain, it can be a scary experience. This is because some types of chest pain mimic the same symptoms of a heart attack or other heart condition. However, there are some types of musculoskeletal chest pain that aren’t related to a heart condition at all. In this article we’ll talk about the causes of this pain as well as some chest wall pain treatments that could work for you. Symptoms of chest pain and discomfort are among the most common reasons provided for medical visits around the world. Further, it has been estimated that around 7.16 million visits are made annually to the emergency department due to chest pain. Between 1% and 3% of all visits to a primary care provider are actually attributed to this problem. The symptoms of chest wall pain can be achy, sharp, or even pressure-like. In many cases, patients will report that their pain worsens upon: Moving their upper body Taking deep breaths Engaging in physical exertion The most common form of this type of pain is costochondral pain, which is an inflammation of the cartilage connecting a rib to the breastbone.
While reports of this type of pain tend to be incredibly common, the underlying cause for the condition is not completely understood. While it is not uncommon for the precise source of chest wall pain to remain unknown, some possible causes of costochondritis include: Injury or trauma: Pain within the area of the chest wall may emerge as the result of a direct blow or injury to the area. Arthritis: Some evidence suggests that symptoms of costochondritis are associated with degenerative joint conditions, such as osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. Physical strain: Symptoms of costochondritis have been linked with periods of heavy lifting, extreme physical exertion, or even severe coughing, which likely places excessive strain to the underlying soft tissue of the chest. Infection: The various joints of the rib cage can become infected from fungi, bacteria, or a virus (e.g., syphilis or tuberculosis). These infections can cause irritation and inflammation of the area, which can lead to symptoms of pain and discomfort. Tumor: Symptoms of pain can emerge as the result of tumor. In fact, cancerous tumors may spread to the joints of the rib cage from other nearby areas of the body, such as the lung, thyroid, or breast. Typically, pain associated with costochondritis emerges as the result of irritation and inflammation of the soft tissue that joins the ribs and the breastbone. Further, previous studies have indicated that this type of pain tends to occur more frequently among populations of women.
Unfortunately, there is very little research available on the effectiveness of potential treatments for chest wall pain. However, there are some at-home treatments you can use to reduce pain from an acute injury or trauma. For more severe cases of pain that aren’t related to heart attack, there are interventional treatments you can try.
Chest Wall Pain | PainDoctor.com
At-home chest wall pain treatments
This type of pain generally resolves on its own. However, some at-home chest wall pain treatments can include:
Taking over-the-counter oral analgesics
Reducing some types of physical activity
Using cough suppressants
Applying a hot compress or heating pad
Undergoing physical therapy
In most instances, over-the-counter oral analgesics are recommended as a first-line treatment. These medications may include acetaminophen or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
Your physician may also recommend that you limit physical activities that tend to make the symptoms worse. For instance, you may be encouraged to reduce exercise intensity or temporarily decrease the degree of physical exertion you engage in at work. Further, using cough suppressants in order to reduce the severity of your cough may provide some relief from symptoms of chest wall pain.
Many patients may have success applying a hot compress or using a heating pad. This technique is particularly effective in instances of costochondritis that are the result of muscle overuse and strain.
Your doctor may also recommend a course of physical therapy. This particular treatment can be very beneficial for cases of musculoskeletal chest pain. They can also recommend at-home stretches for chest wall pain that you can do.
If you’re experiencing more persistent symptoms of pain and discomfort, you may wish to consider more aggressive forms of pain management. You should only attempt these more advanced treatments after other at-home treatments have failed. But, if this type of pain begins to severely impact your daily life, you should talk to your doctor about your options.
Chest wall pain treatments may include:
Chest wall injections
Treatments focused on underlying conditions, such as arthritis, injury, or cancer
For cases of severe and chronic refractory pain, injections of analgesic medication may be effective in providing relief from your pain. This technique allows for a more targeted approach, such that the analgesic medication (generally lidocaine or corticosteroid) is delivered by injection directly into the affected area. The goal of these chest wall injections is to interfere with the transmission of pain signals from the peripheral nervous system to the spinal cord and brain. This technique is effective for managing more severe symptoms of chest wall pain, though it is very rarely necessary.
If you’re suffering from costochondritis that’s caused by an infection, your doctor will start you on a course of antibiotics.
If your pain is caused by a slight dislocation in the ribs, a pain specialist may recommend chiropractic care. In this case, a chiropractor will help manipulate the dislocation to move it back to its original position.
Finally, if arthritis or another pain condition is causing your pain, your pain doctor will work to find treatments that resolve those underlying conditions. In these cases, it can reduce or effectively relieve your symptoms.
Your pain doctor may be able to diagnose costochondritis following a thorough physical examination; however, advanced imaging techniques should be employed to rule out any other potential sources for your symptoms. Physical examination of chest wall pain will generally include gentle palpation of the: Posterior, anterior, and lateral thoracic regions The thoracic and lumbar spine Cervical spine Shoulders Clavicle Any areas of tenderness are noted and better localized by palpation with a single digit. Your pain doctor will examine the movement of your rib cage through the use of deep breathing exercises. Movement of the upper extremities is generally assessed by moving the arm, while they also observe for pain, stiffness, and limits to range of motion.
Chest wall pain, which is also known as costochondritis, is a common condition. It is characterized by achy, sharp, or even pressure-like pain within the chest region. These symptoms may radiate out toward the shoulders and arms.
In most cases, the precise source of the pain is not known. But, in general, this type of pain is believed to be the result of irritation and inflammation of the underlying soft tissue of the chest. Symptoms of chest wall pain generally resolve on their own, though several treatment options are available for pain management. These can include physical therapy, injections, or chiropractic care.
If you’re suffering from chronic chest wall pain that’s lasted for three months or more, or pain that severely impacts your life, you need to talk to a pain specialist. They can help diagnose the cause of your pain and discuss treatment options that would work best for you.