The agonizing chest pain and persistent inflammation of costochondritis may be relieved by regularly performing specific costochondritis exercises. What is costochondritis exactly? It is inflammation of the cartilage that connects each rib to the breastbone. Although it is a temporary condition, costochondritis may take time to dissipate on its own. Costochondritis yoga poses may also help to alleviate the condition.
Costochondritis often produces severe pain that can be mistaken for a heart attack. There is no specific cause for the disease and treatment is based on relieving the painful symptoms.
It should be noted that while many resources refer to costochondritis as Tietze syndrome, the two conditions differ. Costochondritis is characterized by pain from the inflammation of the costochondral cartilages of the chest, whereas Tietze syndrome pain stems from the swelling.
How Exercise Can Help Costochondritis
Exercises for costochondritis may seem impossible, as every movement can cause pain to radiate through the chest and to other parts of the body. But studies show that any pain-inducing condition may improve with gentle stretches and low-impact exercises.
This may be due to the improved blood flow that typically results from exercise, which stimulates the healing of an affected area.
Exercise also stimulates the release of endorphin hormones to alleviate pain and relax tension.
By releasing tension, the muscles and joints of the body have better flexibility to move and prevent further complications. These can include a blockage of blood flow and the resulting lack of nutrients delivered to the area.
Exercise should be done to stretch muscles, and not to the point of pain or further injury.
Costochondritis Exercises: Stretches to Relieve the Pain
There are specific costochondritis exercises to help with the pain and other symptoms that may arise. These should be done at a slow and gentle pace, gradually progressing to the level you were at before the injury.
Stretching exercises, walking, and swimming are the best exercises for costochondritis.
1. Pectoral Muscle Stretch
- Stand in a doorway or with the right side of the body facing a wall.
- Bend the right arm at a 90-degree angle with your forearm resting on the wall and your elbow at shoulder height.
- Inhale and exhale as your body leans forward a bit to stretch the chest muscles.
- Hold for 30 seconds and return to the original position.
- Repeat on the other side.
Change angle positions to stretch various chest muscles by lowering or raising the elbow to the height of the shoulder. You can also use an exercise stability ball in place of a wall.
2. Exercise Stability Ball Stretch
- With an exercise stability ball, kneel on the floor with the ball to the left side of your body.
- Place the forearm of your left arm against the ball and lean downward slightly to stretch the chest muscles. The arm should remain in the same 90-degree angle position.
- Repeat on the right side.
You can also use the exercise stability ball to perform the pectoral muscle stretch in a reclining position by sitting on the ball and rolling until your back is resting on the ball.
Your legs should be bent at a 90-degree angle at the knees. Drop your arms to their sides to open the chest even wider and stretch the pectoral muscles. Roll the ball back and forth in same spot while breathing normally.
A foam roller may be used for tense or tightened muscles. Allow the back to curve on the foam roller to stretch the chest muscles.
Yoga Poses to Relieve Pain
A gentle but efficient costochondritis treatment may be yoga poses. The following movements and poses target the chest muscles without causing additional pain.
Try using props such as folded blankets, pillows, and bolsters.
1. Legs up the Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)
- Sit on the floor with the left side of your body touching a wall and your legs stretched straight out in front of you.
- Inhale and lie back during the exhale and swing your legs to reach up the wall. The back of the legs, your buttocks, and your heels should be pressed against the wall. The body should form a 90-degree angle with the back and head flat on the floor.
- Use a prop under the lower back if necessary.
- Inhale and exhale normally and remain in the position for five minutes.
2. Bharadvaja’s Twist
- Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front and arms resting at the sides. Lean onto your right buttock and bend the knees as you move your legs to the left side of the body. The legs should rest on the floor with your inner left ankle resting in the arch of the right foot.
- Inhale, lengthening the spine, and twist the upper torso to the right on the exhale. Your right hand should rest on the floor behind your body, and the left hand, palm up, can be placed on the right thigh.
- Place a prop under the left hip, if needed.
- Slightly bend your spine inward as you draw the shoulder blades towards the inner back ribs. Lengthen the spine with each inhale and twist deeper on each exhale.
- Turn your head over the right shoulder and hold the position for one minute.
- Release the pose and return to your original position before performing the same steps on other side.
3. Hero Pose (Virasana)
- Kneel on the floor with your knees together and feet hip-width apart.
- Lower into a sitting position, using a block or other prop if necessary between the feet. Sit on your heels, which should be touching the outer hips.
- Drop the shoulders down as you press your lower legs into the floor.
- Lengthen the spine as you push your chest outwards.
- Inhale and exhale deeply as you hold the pose for up to 30 breaths.
4. Child’s Pose (Balasana)
- Kneel on the floor with the tops of your feet flat on the floor behind your body.
- Lower your body down until your buttocks rests on your heels.
- Inhale, and on the exhale, lower your chest to rest between the knees with your forehead on the floor.
- Rest your arms, extended forward, on the floor or swing back to rest on the floor alongside your bent legs.
- Remain in this position for up to two minutes, allowing the tension in your muscles to drain.
5. Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
- Stand straight with your feet hip-width part and your arms down alongside the body.
- Inhale, raising the arms up, and interlock your fingers above the head.
- Raise your heels, standing on the toes.
- Hold this position for 10 seconds.
- Exhale on release and return to the original position.
- Repeat 10 times.
6. Upward Salute (Urdhva Hastasana)
- Stand straight with your arms down and outward, beside the body.
- Inhale, sweeping your arms out and up, with the palms outward and thumbs pointing down towards the head.
- Slightly tip your head back to stare at the thumbs.
- Stretch your ribs towards the pelvis as the tailbone is lengthened towards the floor.
- Hold for three deep breaths and release, returning to original position.
7. Warrior Pose (Virbhadrasana)
- Stand straight with your legs three to four feet apart.
- Inhale as your hands are raised parallel to the floor and turn head to the right.
- Exhale, turning the right foot 90-degrees to the right and bending your right knee.
- Hold the position for four deep breaths.
- Release and return to your original position.
- Repeat on the other side.
8. Corpse Pose (Shavasana)
- Lie on your back on the floor with your legs apart.
- Place your arms alongside the body with palms facing upwards.
- Inhale and exhale deeply, relaxing each part of the body with each breath.
- Do this for at least three to five minutes.
- Costochondritis may cause mild to severe chest pain as the cartilage attaching the rib cage to the breastbone becomes inflamed. This pain may mimic the pain seen in heart attacks or angina episodes.
- While the condition usually heals on its own over the course of several weeks, costochondritis exercises are recommended for additional relief during your recovery. The gentle stretching exercises may alleviate the pain, pressure, and inflammation.
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