Costochondritis is a medical condition in which there is severe or moderate type of pain which is localised to the chest and usually seen on the rib joints. The pain is aggravated by movement and deep breathing. Costochondritis is usually caused due to repeated, minor trauma or unaccustomed heavy activity. The affected costo-chondral joints are tender to touch and pressure. Anti-inflammatory treatment and pain killers, local application of ointments, adequate rest, graded physical activity, and avoidance of heavy activity form the conservative management of this condition.
Even under normal circumstances, minor trauma to the ribs causes pain which usually lasts for about four to six weeks in spite of taking conventional treatment. Costochondritis, which is inflammation of the joints of the ribs, is usually quite refractory to treatment and this experience can be frustrating both to the affected individual as well as to the treating physician. This condition responds completely to treatment only if the causative factors are examined well and efforts are made to address these issues in a comprehensive manner.
Ayurvedic herbal treatment for costochondritis is aimed at giving anti-inflammatory medicines to treat the basic disorder, control pain and tenderness, and also strengthen the costo-chondral joints, so as to avoid recurrence of this situation. Treatment is given in different stages, with control of pain and inflammation forming the first stage. This can be done with oral medication and supplemented by local application of medicines in the form of ointments, pastes, and medicated oils. Local application is usually followed by steam fomentation using herbal decoctions. The application of anti-inflammatory herbal pastes also provides long-term relief from pain and tenderness.
Once pain, swelling and tenderness are brought under control, some medicines with an anti-inflammatory action are continued in a low dose and in addition to these medications, herbal medicines are added which provide a strengthening action to these small joints as well as the ribs and muscles connecting the ribs. This strengthening action provides long-term relief from pain and also helps the affected individual to avoid a recurrence of this situation, as well as develop more tolerance for unaccustomed activity and occupational seating postures.
Some affected individuals do not respond satisfactorily even with the above mentioned treatments. In these situations, it is important to look for other factors which prevent a complete therapeutic response. Stress, depression, generalized weakness and long-term fatigue are some of the factors responsible for this situation. The specific cause needs to be identified and treated with specific medicines. In addition, medicines may also be required to treat depression, stress, and weakness. Herbal medicines which have an immunomodulatory action and which provide long-term strength and vitality to the body are especially useful in this condition.
Such individuals need to develop a daily schedule of regular exercise, relaxation techniques, eat healthy food regularly at prescribed times, and obtain adequate rest and sleep. Meditation, Yogasanas and breathing techniques like Pranayam may also help to achieve control from pain, or reduce sensitivity to pain. Non-irritating and strengthening medicated oils can also be applied on the tender costo-chondral joints on a long term basis, so as to provide complete relief from costochondritis.