heart problem?

Costochondritis/Tietze’s Syndrome – 5 Things That Help!

In Blog by Alyssa Reid11 Comments

Costochondritis =PAINFUL

For many of us with fibromyalgia, CFS/ME is the very sore, tender (and sometimes scary!) costochondritis (which seems to be cross-referenced a lot with Tietze’s Syndrome).

I know of many fibromites/CFSers who have been rushed to the hospital thinking they are having a heart attack – ‘only’ to be diagnosed with costo.  Costochondritis is where costal cartilage in the area between your ribs and breastbone (known as the costochondral and costosternal joints) has become inflamed. Although painful, it is not a serious condition and in most cases the condition gets better on its own within six to eight weeks.  We can go months on end without a flare up, then BAM! It hits you!

Costochondritis causes chest pain which is usually felt at the front of the chest. Typically, it’s a sharp, stabbing pain and can be quite severe. Some people may feel an aching pain. For some people, it feels like they can’t take a deep breathe, others feel like they could be having a heart attack (and so on top of the chest pain, anxiety as well!).

For me, my ‘costo’, is in my back ribs…although it doesn’t seem to be mentioned much in my research – where there are ribs – there can be costochondritis. And man, it hurts! Mine starts from the back under my bra line to the front.  Making wearing anything that isn’t loose, pretty much unbearable. (Another reason for wearing my nightie! :)). Nothing showed on my x-ray or any heart monitor stuff, so my GP wasn’t sure what was the cause, other than the good old standby, ‘It must be your fibromyalgia’. (GREAT!). I think that it gets to the point for many of us, where those of us who research, end up knowing a lot more about our conditions (and the many co-existing conditions as well – 200+!).

I am a woman on a mission…Image result for woman on a mission

It is my belief that understanding our bodies and our patterns in regards to pain and flare ups (and all the other symptoms) have root causes – and I was not happy it letting this very severe pain that seems to last forever, be dismissed as ‘just my fibro’.

In doing voluntary work I do for FibroMapp App I have had the privilege to connect with so many wonderful people and discuss our conditions – and many of them have also confirmed that they too, have never had chest pain with costo – and their specialists diagnosed it.  A mystery?!  All I know is I have tried everything from Naproxen and Diclofenac, to rubs, ointments, soaks, TENS…you name it.  And because of this, I wanted to share with you, below, the things that I have found to be most successful in reducing pain and inflammation.

Believe it or not, there are no known causes as to what brings on a flare up…however, for myself, I have been able to identify what has brought my flare up on (as I type…I am at a 9 in pain levels), and that has been through using my FibroMapp App.  It literally took me 5 minutes (or less) to go through my reports to show my flare up as well as my journal and activities (all in the report), and I figured it out…WRITING THESE BLOGS! (Using a new laptop table for in bed…and I was overstretching…something us hypermobile peeps are great at!).

Here Are Some Non-Pharmaceutical Things That Are Helping Me Reduce Costo (and other!) Pain:

(I have been lucky enough to be able to continue to try new products and supplements (that are in no way sponsored btw!) and believe that the best word, as always, is word of mouth (or in this case, word of blog! :)).  Of course I always read reviews – and know what works for me, might not work for others.  However, all of the products I do list aren’t only tried by myself, but over the years, I have bought many a heating pad for friends and shipped Salonpas patches across the world – as well as use in our own home.  So, they are tried and tested by me (and my friends and family, too!) x

  • Heat

I am always surprised at the number of people I come across who are not owners of a heating pad!!!  People!  If there is any investment you are going to make in regards to helping to alleviate pain and discomfort, a heating pad is the way to go!

As Dr Harris McIlwain says in one of the best books I have found for fibromyalgia, The Fibromyalgia Handbook,  is that the ‘best’ thing for us to do is to use ‘Moist Heat’, (which is a shower, bath, steam…). Twice a day, for 15-20 minutes at a time.

For me, I really struggle to relax for that long in a bath…with a very tender coccyx and lower back, hip area, ‘relaxing’ isn’t easy.  So, I invested in a shower stool.  (And all my Facebook fibro/CFS friends knew that I felt like getting a shower stool was ‘admitting defeat’.  And they all encouraged me in to getting one, saying not only do they love it, so do their kids and partners/husbands!

I admit it.  The shower stool does rock! However, I find recovering from a shower does take me quite a while and in the interim, getting the heat I need on my back during the day (whilst in bed), this heating pad has helped hugely.  The cat likes it too!  (That’s why he has his own now, it was beginning to be a competition to see how fast he could get on my vacated heating pad the moment I got up!).

I have gone through around 6 heating pads in the past few years and I personally find that although the Beurer one is a bit more expensive – it is worth it.  It is soft and comfortable – where others are just a plastic sort of casing (even though in a case, they still don’t manipulate very well into specific positions- that is why I love this one!). There is also a good warrantee on this  (not that I have had a problem), but considering all my other (cheaper) ones have bit the dust- this has stood the test of time! (I hope I haven’t jinxed myself saying that!).

  • Body Pillow (Ok, it’s a maternity pillow…)

    This is definitely another thing that helps me hugely in regards to taking the pressure off of my back area, as well as giving me support under my legs, taking  the weight off of my hips.  Because it is quite thick, it gives me a lot of support and I am able to put the heating pad and ice packs into a much better position by using this.

 Sanggol Maternity Pillows really are the bees knees! 

In speaking with the maker of these great pillows, she informed me that they will be available in North America in a few months time.  However, if you can’t wait that long, there is another pillow that has excellent reviews on Amazon and looks pretty much identical for $64.99.  For more information on this pillow click here.

I think that being able to get into a comfortable position where you are keeping as much pressure off of your tender areas certainly makes a huge difference for us fibromyalgia and CFS/ME peeps.  The reason I love this pillow so much is that not only has it kept it’s loft after a year (of constant day and night use), but I love the contours.

Equally, I have had many friends tell me of their nightmare ‘U’ shaped body pillows in regards to getting the covers off and on.  (One friend said she needs her mother or kids to help – and even THEN it takes close to 20 minutes and is exhausting!).  This pillow has a pillow case included (and spares to order), that has a zip and takes very little effort – at least not the amount of effort other people seem to have with their pillows that aren’t these!  I have several friends who now have one of these – and they love it!

I have the pillow turned upside down to what this picture shows – so that the long part across the top is actually underneath my knees – giving more support and taking the weight off of my hips.  I also am able to adjust it so that it is under my arms, hips etc – all I can tell you is that this pillow really does the trick!

(It is also great for resting the laptop on one side (so in the middle of our bed) to watch movies on, too!).

Yep.  I can hear you yelling at me right now, ‘I can’t stand the cold, let alone ice!’.

I know that some of us are very sensitive to the cold, so this may not be a suitable option for you – but it is one that can really help if you are able to hack it.

As we know, costochondritis is inflammation – and we all know that ice can be very effective in the reduction of swelling, inflammation and pain.

I have tried a lot of ice packs (for medical vs. food use) in the past, and I can tell you, hand on heart, that these are THE BEST.  The KoolPak freezes really quickly – and it lasts a lot longer once in use.

Personally, I think it is important for every home to have a couple of ice packs in the freezer for emergencies.  (Considering how some of us are prone to falling – it’s good to have them just in case – for you – or for other family members).

I actually own two of these – which works perfectly, as there is always at least ONE in the freezer, ready to go.  (I am still looking for the one that went missing a year ago – still a mystery, but they are cheap and great! So, easily replaced!).

I am not sure how I came across these babies…but man, they really do work.  In fact, in tracking my use on the FibroMapp App these are actually working better for me than any of my medications for aches and pains.  

In fact, a couple of months ago, when I had a really bad migraine and nothing would shift it, I cut a patch up and put it on my temples….and it WORKED.  (So now, it’s easy to tell who has a headache in our home, because they have two white patches stuck to their heads – but that’s because they work!). I always think that it is best to try non-pharmaceutical options as the first port of call and these do the trick.

Actually, our friend had sprained his ankle in a sports injury and I gave him some…well, guess what?  The whole team are now using them – so that says something! 🙂

Luckily, I have a wonderful and helpful hubby, who takes care of patching me up, giving me massages etc.  Otherwise sticking patches on my back by myself would be rather impossible.

This is another device, admittedly an investment, but a worthwhile one…I have had my Ultralieve ultrasound for 7 years now – and it continues to not only help me – but everyone else who has borrowed and used it! One friend swears by it for the arthritis in her knees and another for his back and neck pain.

The ultrasound accelerates healing fast – in 5-15 minutes treatment.  It’s a pain free application used by health professionals  and easy to use at home for:

  • Sports injury
  • Headache
  • Back and neck pain
  • Shoulder injury or pain
  • Sciatica pain
  • Arthritis pain
  • Knee pain and injury
  • Sprains and strains
  • Foot pain
  • Plantar facilities
  • Costochondritis

The Blurb from Ultralieve on Amazon:

How does Ultralieve® work on getting me better? Ultralieve® will deliver 1 million vibrations per second (1MHz) pulsed ultrasound waves with varying intensity levels deep into damaged tissues and is scientifically and medically proven device to treat a range of medical conditions.

Prof Tim Watson, Professor of Physiotherapy at the University of Hertfordshire says “One of the therapeutic effects for which ultrasound has been used is in relation to tissue healing. It is suggested that the application of ultrasound to injured tissues will, amongst other things, speed the rate of healing and enhance the quality of the repair.” Safe, drug free pain management.

And Lastly…

Stay tuned as I continue my foray into giving up pharmaceutical medications and going the supplement route.  I have just started (as of today) tracking (on our FibroMapp App) an interesting (and all natural) supplement for aches and pains – as well as inflammation and infection.  (And under £10!).  Excellent reviews on Amazon.  Took my first 2 today when pain was at a 9 (after I took my Salonpas patches off for a shower pain goes through the roof and I need to wait for hubby/carer to put them on in the evenings).  So, within an hour my pain was back to around a 7(ish) – so painful – but not in tears…a good thing!  I will keep you posted as always!

Wishing you all a pain free day.

Alyssa x


  1. When i first got chest pain it started i the morning as a bit of an odd ache and continued to get worse. It was right on/by my breast bone. It got a lot worse over the next 2 hours so i did some self checks. Heart rate was normal, breathing normal. no pain down my arm/up into my face. So i knew i wasnt having a heart attack but i didnt know what was happening.
    When i called my gp i started by saying “i am pretty sure i am not having a heart attack”. Of course because i was having severe chest pain all their protocols kicked in. I was monitored at the surgery and yes everything was ok. But what was it?!?! Then the dr used this word that is now so very familiar.

    1. Author

      Yep. Costo is freaking scary when you don#t know what it is…and even when you do! Hugs x

      1. Author

        I was just going through the comments and read ‘Costco’ is freaking scary’…and immediately jumped to the conclusion of you lost in a very large shop! Time for glasses methinks! 🙂 x

  2. obviously like your website however you need to test the spelling on quite a
    few of your posts. Many of them are rife with
    spelling issues and I to find it very troublesome to inform the reality on the
    other hand I will surely come back again.

    1. Author

      Hi there – thank you for your comment – I try my best to be fastidious with spelling and appreciate your comment. I am wondering what in particular you are finding issues with? As perhaps they might be the British spelling for things (generally with an ‘s’ instead of a ‘z’ such as ‘customise’, ‘personalise’ etc. As this is a British social enterprise, (s!) and being British, we have the choice to write in the British spelling of words that North Americans spell differently – or North American spelling that British spell differently! So there’s no winning for both. In saying this, please do let me know if there is anything I may have missed – Unfortunately it takes me close to a week to write a blog – and admittedly, after doing around 50 revisions per blog – my eyes are not fresh to say the least! Alyssa

  3. Thank you for this very useful and pro-active advice… I’m grateful you took time to share.. xx

  4. Hello Alyssa, I have been suffering for SO long with rib pain on both of my sides, now it’s my ribs in front too, I’ve had catscans, MRI’s, you name it, I’ve had it. No Dr has been able to tell me anything. Now I go to pt twice a week, doesn’t help, a chiropractor, seems like it makes it hurt more, I was going to acupuncture for awhile, it seemed like it helped a little bit, I feel so lost, this has been hurting me for about 3 years now….feels like it’s getting worse, and I don’t know what to do about it. I can’t afford expensive ultrasound machines, I’m a disabled single mom of 2, I could get the salonpas and try those and the ice packs, though I do hate the cold lol .. I plan to keep reading your blog, if it is still active, I just came across it looking for any ideas, I believe I do have costochondritis, even though I haven’t been diagnosed with it officially…sorry this is so long lol

    1. Author

      Hi Melanie.

      I am so sorry to read that you are struggling with this. It is so painful and uncomfortable and it sucks! Do you have a heating pad? Try ice (if you can bear it) and then heat, keep swapping it for around 20 mins on each. The best thing that (unfortunately) seems to help in regards to meds are NSAIDS (ie ibuprofen, naproxen etc) but they are horrific on the stomach. The Salonpas certainly works well for me (albeit not easy to put on your back by yourself!:)). Thank you so much for your comment. And thank you for your interest! Hang in there…you aren’t alone… A.x

  5. Thanks Alyssa,
    Unfortunately I can’t do NSAIDS because I have kidney issues, also I recently (3/9/16) had gastric bypass surgery, so I can’t take any of those, only thing I can take is Tylenol, which are very little to no help. I will try the salonpas as well as some ice, and yes, I do have a heating pad, I think I may be due for a new one, though, the one I have seems to get way too hot on the lowest setting. But I appreciate your help and I will stay in touch 🙂 Thank you!

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