Costochondritis or Buckle the Hell Up

Thanksgiving Eve: my son’s sick of ham and I tell him to drive me – anywhere – and I’ll get him something to eat via the drive thru window. I was tired, irritated, and told my son how to drive. I took ahold of his wheel – the first law of stupidity – when I wanted to head home. The second law of stupidity was not having on my seat-belt.

I always wear my seat-belt. I don’t know what was in the ham. I can only say: I was stupid.

My son breaked the truck, which didn’t have an airbag on my side. It’s an older truck, bought secondhand, and then, my life changed on a dime. I flew forward and my son’s arm flew out. He has taken Krav Maga, karate, lifted weights, and for a skinny fellow, he has one helluva a good reflex and block. Had his arm not flown out, I’d been buried in my family plot in Western Kentucky: next to Dr. Herman Hendricks. Immediately, I felt a searing pain in my chest: think explosion. No better, think of a mother crying in pain, searing heat, a heart attack, I’m dying… Son, I’m dying. The pain would get worse as hours passed, despite an ibuprofen. I thought I was having a heart attack, honestly, since my father and grandfather had heart attacks (and survived) at my age.

“You’d died if I hadn’t thrown out my arm to save your face through a window, Mom. You’re just hurt a bit. You’ll be okay…”

I wished.

Four hours later, I was in the local emergency room. Four hours later, I was dismissed with “undiagnosed chest pain,” per my ER visit. The first one. I will be writing the doctor in the near future with my records to educate him…

Twenty-four hours later, fearing another possible heart attack (despite the tests with the first visit – which was dismissed as “undiagnosed” with anxiety), I was back into the local ER. This time, the doctor, a veteran physician of good repute, sat down in a chair after the tests and said, “Anne, good news: you are not having a heart attack. The bad news: You have blunt force trauma in the chest: you have Costochondritis.”

Huh? Say what? No, I’m having a heart attack. No? Really? Eh? Where’s my phone: I got to Google. Better: it hurts like hell.


Three weeks later. I wished I could say this was the “easiest” recovery to learn a lesson about not buckling up and one’s son having to save their butt. Nope. Until Dr. Hall diagnosed me, I’d never heard of Costochondritis. My best friend rang my mental bell, “I had it – remember my wreck?” Yes: she was in horrible pain, for weeks. I never knew it had a name. I just though she’s gotten banged up in her car wreck in 2002 and eventually, recovered. I have since apologized.

Costochondritis is a fascinating disorder. Seventy percent of women get it more than men – I’ll pass on at the APA citation, thanks. Women over forty are more prone to be diagnosed. Say what? Yep. The exact cause of costochondritis in most people is unknown. But conditions that may cause it include:

  • trauma to the chest, such as blunt impact from a car accident or fall
  • physical strain from activities, such as heavy lifting and strenuous exercise
  • certain viruses or respiratory conditions, such as tuberculosis and syphilis, that can cause joint inflammation
  • certain types of arthritis
  • tumors in the costosternal joint region *trauma to the chest, such as blunt impact from a car accident or fall’
  • physical strain from activities, such as heavy lifting and strenuous exercise;
  • certain viruses or respiratory conditions, such as tuberculosis and syphilis, that can cause joint inflammation;
  • certain types of arthritis’ tumors in the costosternal joint region


Most cases of costochondritis are treated with over-the-counter medications. If your pain is mild to moderate (or hello, hitting severe pain), your doctor will probably recommend nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve). A doctor may also prescribe:


  • prescription-strength NSAIDs
  • other painkillers, such as narcotics
  • antianxiety medications
  • tricyclic antidepressants, including amitriptyline
  • oral steroids or injection of a steroid into the area involved

The end result, what did I end up on, after two ER trips, follow up with a PA, and another follow up by a physician: I am on a painkiller as needed (I found Tylenol is working awesome these last days – pain pills are bad mojo), using cold and hot treatments (utilize one hour on ice, one hour on a heating pad), a muscle relaxant once a day, Mobic (anti-inflammatory), Prednisone (for seven days), and Cortizone shots. I have had three miscarriages, a stillbirth, a high-risk pregnancy, a hysterectomy, adenomyosis (undiagnosed for six years), and one other surgery: Costochondritis goes down as the worst experience of my life, but luckily?

I will get over it. I remind myself of that daily when I hurt. Thank you to my son for his fast reflexes in saving my life and thank you to Spalding Regional (WellStar) of Griffin, GA for their excellent care. This was a fitting lesson as to why everyone: please buckle up.

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