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Costochondritis, Ambulatory Care

Costochondritis

is a condition that causes pain in the cartilage that connects your ribs to your sternum (breastbone). Cartilage is the tough, bendable tissue that protects your bones.

Common symptoms include the following:

  • Sharp or dull, aching pain that may come and go or that gets worse over time
  • Pain when you touch your chest
  • Pain that spreads to your back, abdomen, or down your arm
  • Pain that gets worse when you move, breathe deeply, or push or lift an object
  • Trouble sleeping or doing your usual activities because of the pain

Seek immediate care for the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • The painful areas of your chest look swollen and red, and feel warm to the touch
  • Pain prevents you from sleeping

Treatment for costochondritis

may not be needed. Costochondritis pain may go away without treatment, usually within a year. Treatment may include any of the following:

  • Acetaminophen decreases pain. Acetaminophen is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children under 6 months of age without direction from your child's healthcare provider.

Manage your symptoms:

  • Rest as needed. Avoid painful movements and activities. Do not carry objects, such as a purse or backpack, if this causes pain. Avoid activities such as weightlifting until your pain decreases or goes away. Ask your healthcare provider which activities are best for you to do while you recover.
  • Apply heat to help decrease pain. Apply heat on the area for 20 to 30 minutes every 2 hours for as many days as directed.
  • Apply ice to help decrease swelling and pain. Ice may also help prevent tissue damage. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel and place it on the painful area for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed.
  • Do gentle stretching exercises. Stand in a doorway and put your hands on the door frame at the level of your ears or shoulders. Take 1 step forward and gently stretch your chest. Try this with your hands higher up on the doorway.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2016 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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