Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tackling Costochondritis - My Regimen

This blog entry is about my nearly two year struggle with costochondritis. You can read my story and follow my blog entries in chronological order by going to this link.

Writing a blog entry for dealing with this monster (costochondritis) is not easy. I probably should start writing down a list of thoughts before I blog about this. I have a feeling I'll be sitting here cutting and pasting my words so that they'll not be so jumbly (and the spell-check says "jumbly" is not a word--but I'm saying it is today). More than a year's research is floating around in my brain, and I know that there's no possible way that I can get it all in in one blog entry (hence the need for a whole series of posts so that you can read on your own time). Today I'm going to devote my blog entry to the regimen I'm going to attempt to follow. I say attempt because my history doesn't exactly include a heaping amount of determination or will-power. However, I'd love to get my life back, and that's a whole lot of determination right there. And that also reminds me to tell you that I'm going to write a post (or maybe more?) about what a bad day is like for me and what a good day is like for me.

But first I want to share with you what I'm going to do to tackle this problem, and with God's help, eliminate it. Speaking of God, I also need to share with you in a blog entry about my struggle and my spiritual growth.

Diet Life-Changing Eating Plan
I hate that word Diet, and anyone who has ever been on a diet surely hates it, too. The word is not pleasant and brings back the thought of endless FAILED attempts at changing my eating habits. The word Diet has an unpleasant letter arrangement that I also associate with failed attempts at changing my eating--d-i-e. Yup, every time I go on a diet, the plan always dies. I don't have much will-power. So, that being said, I have chosen--instead of Diet--to use the phrase Life-Changing Eating Plan.

My eating plan is developed around the perfect whole foods diet eating plan. ;) Whole foods means that there is nothing processed in such a way that nutrients are stripped. So, basically, here is a list of foods I will be eating, followed by a list I won't be eating.

Life-Changing foods (what I'll be eating):
  • whole grain bread, crackers, with no sugar or ingredients that contain -ose
  • fresh fruits and frozen (no sugar added, no preservatives)
  • fresh vegetables and frozen (no preservatives)
  • brown rice, barley, etc. (not refined)
  • no-salt nuts
  • non-breaded meats
  • organic yogurt (no sugar), cheese (no processed junk)
Life-Inhibiting foods (what I won't eat):
  • white flour
  • canned fruit, dried fruit (including GMO fruits and veggies, which I avoid anyway)
  • white rice
  • breaded, processed meat
  • anything with sugar in the ingredients or -ose or -ol in the ingredient list
  • anything with monosodium glutamate in the ingredient list
Since I also suffer from acid reflux, I also plan to eliminate tomatoes, onions and celery from my diet (my acid triggers) for a while.


Stress & Tension - My Slow but Steadily Plunge into Pain
Relaxation is going to be a huge part of my regimen because I've developed the habit of bracing. During the last thirteen years, I have bit by bit held tension in my upper torso. As a result, my neck was my first source of problem. I have alignment issues (because of one leg being longer than the other), but that is only half of my neck problems. When I was 22, I started getting tension headaches. I just thought for years that I was afflicted with migraines; looking back on it and knowing what I do now, it was a part of my stress problem. Thirteen years later, I still have neck problems, but I've added upper back, shoulder, mid back and lower back to my list of pain. Last February, I added chest to the mix. Instead of now simply responding to a stressful situation by tensing my shoulders and my chest muscles, I now tense my shoulders and chest muscles when I am not stressed. I will be sitting in front of the television, reading a book, or simply having a conversation and realize that my muscles in those areas are tense. I consciously realize it several times a day and force myself to relax those muscles.

Morning Pain
My mornings are rough. When I wake up, my sternum and ribs (front and back) are sore. If I awake while lying on my side, it feels like my sternum is being squished. Painful. As the morning progresses, I begin to feel better. This lets me know that I tense my muscles up during sleep.

How I'm Hoping to Fix It - Skilled Relaxation

Last year I discovered a website that has brought me my greatest number of resources in fighting and winning the battle against acid reflux and costochondritis. And that website introduced to me the book on the left: Recapture Your Health. I bought it (and no, I have not been paid to talk about this book), and boy has it been an eye-opener. It's a holistic look at healing your problems when allopathic medication won't bring you healing. (The authors don't dismiss modern medicine--they prefer a natural healing when possible combined with allopathic means of handling other health needs, such as genetic illnesses.)

One third of this book's major topics deals with relaxation (the other two main topics cover exercise and whole foods diet). The idea behind relaxation is to teach your body not to respond to the fight or flight mode that many folks find themselves constantly in. For me, relaxation is simply lying on the bed for half an hour, focusing on my breathing and keeping thoughts at bay. I also occasionally listen to classical music (Pachelbel's Canon is one of my favorites) when I'm having trouble with focusing on relaxing. I don't listen to relaxation CDs with people telling you what to do, nor do I do self-hypnosis or things like that. I simply lie down and relax. I do this twice a day, according to the suggestion in the book. I've not done it long enough to see results. As a matter of fact, the book states that it can take 6-12 months to see major results. Maybe three months before I see noticeable results. I don't care if I have to wait a year--if it'll work, I'll try it three times a day if I need to.

Supplements & Helpful Practices
Here is a list of supplements that I am taking:
  • regular multivitamin
  • folate
  • fish oil and/or flax seed oil
  • magnesium
  • B12
  • Frankincense oil
  • Vit. D
  • chiropractic care & massage therapy as needed
  • gentle stretching & walking
  • Echinacea (two weeks on, two off)
I'm keeping a notebook to keep track of my relaxation sessions, vitamins,and symptoms. This will help me to see if there is a pattern to my pain. Some people claim that weather makes costochondritis worse. I've not been able to see if there is a pattern yet for me. Time will tell.

My goal is to be whole and well again. The ultimate goal would be to pass on my findings to someone else battling this so that they can be made whole and well again, too.


  1. Hi jami I know you posted this some time ago, but I really appreciate this article. I too have been suffering with costochondritis for almost a year now and it has taken a lot out of me. It has given me such bad anxiety and I did not want to be on a bunch of meds so this is something I am going to try. Thanks!

    1. Good luck, Jennifer! Keep me posted on what you find out.


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