Tietze syndrome is an inflammatory condition that aggravates the cartilage connecting the ribs to the breastbone, causing swelling, chest pain and a whole lot of discomfort. It is supposed to last a few weeks or months, according to the National Institute of Health’s Genetic and Rare Disease Center.
But for some unfortunate souls, Tietze syndrome lingers on well past its expiration date.
A recent visit to my doctor confirmed that I’m one of them. Since the pain in my ribs is pretty hard to ignore, I wasn’t exactly surprised when she diagnosed chronic Tietze syndrome. But it definitely wasn’t what I wanted to hear.
What does chronic mean?
In medicine, chronic has two definitions. In some cases, it refers to a slowly worsening problem that becomes virtually constant; Medline Plus lists asthma and osteoporosis as examples. But, as Web MD explains, a condition can also become chronic when it lasts longer than expected, causing ongoing problems. While there is no hard and fast rule, most doctors agree that something can be considered chronic after three to six months.
Since I’ve been dealing with Tietze syndrome for almost ten months and have seen no real improvement in the last six months, it’s safe to say it has become a chronic condition for me.
How do you treat chronic Tietze syndrome?
Some of the medical advice for treating Tietze syndrome remains the same regardless of whether it’s newly diagnosed or chronic. My doctor encouraged me to continue using heat to soothe my ribs and confirmed that the muscle relaxer I sometimes need when my ribs are seized by muscle spasms is okay for long term use.
But she also had a few new suggestions. When Tietze syndrome does not respond to standard treatments, patients can try different options like physical therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic care and steroid injections in the affected cartilage.
After discussing my options, I decided to try physical therapy. I’m starting it soon, which has me hopeful one minute and terrified the next. I am more than ready to be done with Tietze syndrome, but I am also scared that something will make it worse.
If you think you may have Tietze syndrome or you have been diagnosed with Tietze syndrome and believe it has become a chronic condition, talk with your doctor. They can confirm your hunch or provide you with the correct diagnosis so that you can discuss your treatment options and decide what best suits your individual health situation.
Looking for more information on Tietze syndrome? Click here.