Tuesday, July 16

Cartilage be inflamed and shit

So, the problem last night was that I was experiencing these weird pains in my chest. It was an achy tightness that radiated from what felt like my heart across the left half of my chest, right under my breast. It was uncomfortable, and scary. Breathing made it ache more, but when I took deep breaths, I had no pain. Nor did I have any dizziness or shortness of breath, but I was genuinely afraid to go to sleep last night because I was afraid I wouldn't wake up this morning.
Happily, I did wake up this morning, but was still in discomfort. And because we have a rule -- Don't Complain About It If You Haven't Done Anything About It -- I finally told Brian, and then called my gynecologist's office to see where I should start investigating this issue. The gynecologist's medical assistant and I had a couple conversations (where she asked me all the questions that would tell her if I was having a heart attack), and then she and the doctor decided that it was beyond the realm of the gynecologist, and that I should visit an urgent care.
With my kid in tow, I headed over to the closest office, where we waited for 45 minutes before getting into a exam room. (Positive: The urgent care's scale weighs me a couple pounds less than my scale at home, and therefore, is right in all ways.) The doctor listened to my breathing and my heart, did a breast exam just to be sure that there wasn't anything weird going on there, and then finally set me up with an EKG. The EKG was normal, which relieved me in more ways than I can ever tell you. As Sydney and I sat in the room waiting for the doctor to return after the test was administered, I realized that the pain was coming more from my sternum area, and that it was more sore when I exhaled.
I told the doctor this when she came back, and she immediately had a different hypothesis. She did some compressions against my sternum and ribs at the center of my chest. They ached when she did, and she confirmed then what the problem was: COSTOCHONDRITIS.
Costochondritis is inflammation of the joint between the bony part of the rib and the rib cartilage. It is more common in women than men, and tends to occur more often in people older than 40 years. (UGH!! Really?!?! Another reason to hate 40.) Many times, the cause cannot be found, which is the case with me because I have no idea how this happened. The main symptom is pain or tenderness in the front of the chest near the breastbone, and it occurs most often on the left side of the upper chest. Sometimes the pain can be confused with heart attack pain. (Thank goodness for that EKG, or I'd be freaking out.) Treatment is anti-inflammatory medicines, and the pain usually lasts for a week or two, but doesn't cause any long-term problems. I have stretches to do throughout the days until the pain goes away.
I do, of course, feel better knowing what the problem is. I will happily take my pain medicines tonight, and then sleep better than I did last night. Honestly, the EKG being normal is the best part of my day, because for whatever reason, I've always feared a pain in my chest. And since I was experiencing the pains as the test was being administered, and nothing funky showed up on the readings, I feel even better.
But no joke, this experience scared me a whole lot. I need to take better care of myself. Because anything worse than costochondritis is unacceptable.

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