A week ago Sunday, I went to bed normal. The next morning, when I got into the shower to get ready for work, I was overcome by intense chest pain, so intense that I couldn’t moving my body, especially my arms, without crying out in pain. My breathing became rapid and short. I got out, dried off and laid down. Lying down improved it but as soon as I tried to sit up – BAM – intense pain! The only way I knew how to describe it was that it felt like it was in my chest wall.
Just a few month ago I had a Healthy Heart Screening and my score was zero, the best you can get. When the pain hit, I checked my heart rate and blood pressure, both normal. I didn’t see how it could be my heart. My husband wanted to take me to the ER but I didn’t want some giant bill for something minor. I decided to see if I could get into my asthma doctor, thinking it was an asthma attack. He squeezed me in that morning and listened to my heart and lungs. He didn’t think it was asthma related and my heart sounded fine, as were my vitals, and he didn’t hear anything in my lungs to suggest something like Pleurisy. His best assessment was that what I was experiencing was “consistent” with Costochondritis – inflammation of the cartilage holding the ribs to the breastbone. He gave me some steroid pills and sent me home.
I had never heard of this condition and since I couldn’t move and was lying flat on the couch, as that was the only thing that brought any relief, I went online to research. What I discovered is that this is a very painful condition that can last from a week up to a year and can recur in some people. WHAT?? In many cases, and in my case, they don’t know what causes it and there isn’t much that can be done to help it, only pain killers and muscle relaxers, neither of which work on me, and rest. The second day, I moved wrong and hunched over in chest pain which caused a massive pain to start in my back, directly behind the chest pain, which was a little more on the left side now rather than the center. By Thursday, although the chest pain had improved somewhat, the back pain was excrutiating and constant, even interrupting my sleep. I had not been able to make it to work since it began. I decided to call my family physician just to make sure nothing else was wrong, hoping he would examine the cartilage areas. I had read that pain upon manual manipulation proved the diagnosis, and if their was no pain, then it couldn’t be Costo.
Well, my family physical didn’t examine me at all. He just kind of shook his head like he wasn’t sure what to think. He gave me a steroid shot (didn’t work) and a prescription for Norco and muscle relaxers (didn’t work), and sent me on my way. Well just great! I would have been better off going to the ER the first day, then at least I would have had a full workup and examination. So I am left with the not-definitive diagnosis of Costochondritis. I will say that with all my research, it sounds very close to what I am experiencing. It can radiate to the back, but it’s hard to believe that THIS much pain is deferred.
So far, I have missed a week of work and it doesn’t seem to be getting much better. I have struggled for years with joint pain in a lot of my body, so I hope this isn’t a progression of that. I have read that people with Fybromyalgia and Arthritis are more prone to this condition. My problem is that I can never get a doctor to take me seriously. Once blood work is normal, they don’t want to investigate any further. I am 45 years old and my body feels like it 60. I have had several people tell me my symptoms sound autoimmune and I have so many symptoms of Lupus that it’s crazy. And this new condition is also often experienced by those with Lupus.
Do doctors just not care anymore? Are they afraid to actually touch and examine their patients? It’s so frustrating. For now, I am in pain 24/7, can’t do much, and my life is greatly affected. There are moments when I can’t take the pain anymore and have to try not to cry because that would only make the pain worse. I am trying a natural approach, an anti-inflammatory diet to see if that can at least help. I guess I just feel defeated.
Is anyone else out there dealing with this condition?