Costochondritis - What is it and can massage help?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

What is it?

“Costochondritis is an inflammation and associated tenderness of the cartilage (i.e., the costochondral joints) that attaches the front of the ribs to the breastbone. It causes pain in the lower rib area or upper breastbone. Some patients fear they are having a heart attack. The most severe pain is usually between the breast and the upper abdomen. The pain may be greater when in sitting or reclining positions. Stress may aggravate this condition. Generally the third or fourth ribs are affected. However, any of the seven costochondral junctions may be affected, and more often than not more than one site is involved. The inflammation can involve cartilage areas on both sides of the sternum, but usually is on one side only. Costochondritis should be distinguished from Tietze Syndrome, which is an inflammation involving the same area of the chest, but also includes swelling.” Source: Healthline.com, http://www.healthline.com/galecontent/costochondritis


Can Massage help?

Massage is indicated. However, not recommend in the chest area during the acute phase. Due to the enflamed cartilage, any pressure or increased circulation to those joints will result in pain and prolonged recovery. I would, however recommend looking into diaphragmatic breathing to help with relieving the pressure on the ribcage during respiration. Massage may also be helpful on the surrounding muscles that assist in respiration. Try limiting your massage sessions to the abdomen, (the internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis and the diaphragm) and the neck (sternocleidomastoid and the scalenes  muscles). All of these muscles assist each other in respiration and can become overused while suffering from costochondritis. Light swedish, shiatsu, softer MFT work, polarity, jin shin and the other energy modalities can help bring relief to these muscles in addition to releasing endorphens and serotonin (the body’s means to reducing pain).


In the non acute phase, massage on the intercostal muscles, pectoralis major and minor and the serratus anterior in addition to the ones I listed for the acute phase, can help with your recovery. While under stress, trigger points can form in any of these muscles, which can result in additional pain in the chest. In particular, the intercostal muscles. Trigger point therapy, MFT, swedish massage, shiatsu, neuromuscular therapy, polarity, jin shin and others can be utilized to facilitate your recovery.


As always, when recovering from any injury or illness take the process slowly. Include your massage therapist in with your whole medical health team, so your recovery is smooth and well documented.


Please Note: If you are experiencing any such pain, see your doctor for a diagnosis prior to visiting your massage therapist.


By Thomas Friedrich, CMT

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