Pain after Breast Cancer: Costocondritis
When you ask about pain after breast cancer, you can often get a vague answer. For some patients, pain is a normal part of recovery. This is true for many women, but not for all. For those experiencing pain after breast cancer, Costocondritis may be to blame.
One patient experiencing Costocondritis stated the following: “An ultrasound found the cartilage between my rib bones is lumpy and close to the skin. The oncologist said this isn’t anything to worry about. It has been there since I had the mastectomy operation early 2009. I asked my surgeon about it and he said it has probably been there forever but now my breast is gone I can feel it. But I do worry because it is below the area where my Multifocal tumors were situated.” Because she continued to ask, she finally discovered the source of her pain: Costocondritis.
What is Costocondritis?
Costocondritis is inflammation of the cartilage that joins the ribs to the breastbone (called costal cartilages). Also known as anterior chest wall pain, Costocondritis causes discomfort in the chest wall around the breastbone (or sternum) and sometimes is severe.
What does Costochondritis feel like?
Costochondritis is a common problem in women who have been affected by breast cancer and acts up in a similar way to arthritis. The pain may be mild to severe with tenderness over the anterior chest and may radiate to the back, shoulders, stomach or arms. Pain is often aggravated with coughing, lifting, straining, sneezing and deep breathing. Flare ups can be triggered by over-working your arms, lifting, sweeping, or over extending. Pain can be constant or intermittent and can last for several days to multiple months or years.
Costochondritis or Tietze Syndrome- How do I know?
When Costochondritis is accompanied by swelling of the areas surrounding the cartilage, the condition is called Tietze Syndrome. Tietze Syndrome causes localized musculoskeletal pain. In Tietze syndrome the swollen area of the inflamed cartilage may be tender to the touch and the skin overlying the cartilage may be reddened.
Physical Therapy for Costochondritis
Often times treatments that improve arthritis symptoms may improve symptoms of Costochondritis as well. Treatment options typically include a combination of rest, ice and analgesics, anti-inflammatory medications (Advil, Motrin, Aleve), thoracic mobilization, breathing facilitation techniques and stretches. In some cases of severe pain, cortisone injections or surgery have been utilized- with mixed results. Stretching exercises have shown to be beneficial.
How to Get Treatment for Costochondritis
At Therapy Achievements, we specialize in treating pain and mobility limits associated with treatment of cancer. Our therapists have had advanced training in manual therapy techniques designed to reduce pain and swelling and enhance flexibility and movement. We have a satellite clinic located inside Clearview Cancer Institute to provide services to patients balancing chemo or radiation schedules. Call us to schedule(256) 509-4398