Once an individual starts to experience rib pain when stretching or pressing the left side of the rib cage, costochondritis might be the culprit. Costochondritis involves inflammation in the rib cartilage which is responsible for the rib pain. On the other hand, certain issues such as a broken rib or an internal condition can also transmit pain to the area.
What are the potential symptoms?
The pain that originates in the chest, usually on the left side of the sternum is mostly linked to costochondritis. Even though the pain can be described as piercing, it can also feel similar to a gnawing or dull sensation.
The individual is more likely to feel the rib pain while engaging in actions such as deep breathing or coughing, but the pain is also reproduced by pushing in on the region that is sore when performing other strenuous actions.
What are the serious symptoms?
The rib pain might be linked to a bruise or fracture if severe tenderness develops after trauma such as a direct blow to the chest area. The injured rib is likely to feel sore when the individual breathes or when attempting to twist or bend.
It is vital to consult a doctor a soon as possible if an individual is suspected with an injured rib. In some circumstances, the rib pain that seems to originate under the rib might be linked to a serious internal issue that entails immediate medical care. This might be a potential heart attack or heart-related issue if there are sensations of pressure or crushing chest pain that intensifies in frequency. Remember that the pain of a heart attack often radiates to the shoulder or arm.
What are the potential causes?
Various conditions can trigger costochondritis but oftentimes, the doctor might not be able to determine the exact cause. Nevertheless, the root of the problem can be traced if the individual recently injured the chest, has pain in another region of the body, engaged in strenuous activity, recent upper respiratory condition or diagnosed with fibromyalgia.
Assessment of rib pain
The doctor will ask questions regarding the latest symptoms in order to determine the suitable course of treatment for the rib pain. The doctor will ask the individual to describe the pain, when it started, frequency of the pain and if there are other symptoms present. The doctor will also perform diagnostic tests such as a chest X-ray or bone scan to rule out or confirm serious issues such as fractures.
The treatment is based on the underlying cause of the rib pain. In case the pain is due to a break, the doctor might prescribe a strong pain medication or administer an injection of a long-lasting anesthetic to numb the nerves around the affected rib until it heals on its own.
In case the rib pain is caused by costochondritis, it is recommended to apply a heating pad throughout the day and provide non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen to minimize the pain until the inflammation subsides on its own.
In either case, the individual should take some time to rest until the pain subsides and steadily resume his/her normal activities to avoid overexerting the body as it heals.