You have 12 pair of ribs that attach to the “thoracic” region of your spine. The ribs serve to protect your heart, lungs, and other vital organs. Each rib is shaped much like a “bucket handle” arching from your spine to your breastbone (sternum) in front. Your ribs must move freely when you breathe, bend, twist, and reach. The term “costovertebral dysfunction” means that one or more of your ribs has become restricted or slightly malpositioned from it’s attachment to the spine.
You can visualize this as imagining one of your bucket handles is misaligned and not moving in sync with the others.
Rib problems can develop in many ways. Sometimes they are brought on by an accident or injury; other times, they develop from repetitive strains or poor posture. Rib malpositions are common during pregnancy or after a whiplash injury.
Symptoms sometimes begin following a sudden or explosive movement, like coughing or sneezing, reaching, pushing, or pulling. Other times, a specific cause cannot be recalled. Rib dysfunction may cause pain near or slightly to the side of your spine with possible radiation of symptoms along your rib, sometimes all the way to the front. Some patients feel as though they were “shot by an arrow.” Rib problems are a frequently overlooked source of chest and abdominal pain.
Be sure to tell your chiropractor if your symptoms include any unusual cough, indigestion, nausea, vomiting, fever, flu-like complaints or if you notice a rash developing along the border of your rib. Seek immediate medical treatment if you notice chest “pressure” or “squeezing”, symptoms that radiate into your arm and jaw, or if you have chest pain or shortness of breath with exertion, as these are possible symptoms of heart problems and must be addressed immediately.
Most patients report rapid relief following chiropractic care. Our office can provide several tools to help ease your pain. To speed your recovery, you should avoid activities that increase your pain. Initially, you may need to limit reaching, pushing, and pulling. Women may benefit by temporarily switching to a sports bra to help better diffuse pressure over irritated ribs. Some patients report relief by using sports creams, NSAIDs, or applying ice for 15-20 minutes directly over the painful area.
Your lower back is made up of five blocks of bone (vertebra) stacked on top of each other with a shock absorbing “disc” in between each level for flexibility. The larger front of the vertebra is called the “body”. The back of each vertebra is formed by two smaller bony columns (one on each side), capped with smooth joints called “facets”. Each vertebra rests on the one below in a “tripod” sort of fashion with the disc in front, and the facet joints in the back. The diagnosis of “facet syndrome” means that your facet joints have become irritated and inflamed. This problem can arise from sprains, strains, or joints that are not moving properly. Patients are more likely to develop facet syndrome if they have suffered an injury, overuse their back, have arthritis, or are overweight.
When a facet is irritated, you will likely notice pain on one side of your back that may radiate into your flank, hip, and thigh. The pain may come and go. Your pain may increase when you arch backwards or return to an upright position after bending forward. Many patients report relief when they lie down. Symptoms of facet syndrome do not usually radiate past your knee. Be sure to tell your chiropractor if your symptoms include any radiation of pain below your knee, weakness, groin numbness, changes in bowel or bladder function, or if you have a fever.
Long-standing irritation to the facet joint is thought to cause arthritis. Fortunately, our office can help. To speed your recovery, you should wear supportive shoes and avoid activities that increase your symptoms. Be sure to take frequent breaks from sitting. Your doctor may provide specific recommendations about using heat or ice at home. You may need to limit heavy physical activity, but you should avoid complete bed rest. Yoga has been shown to help back pain sufferers, so consider joining a class or picking up a DVD.
Meralgia paresthetica is an often missed diagnosis for tingling, numbness, and burning pain on the front and outside of your thigh. The condition is caused by a pinching or irritation to the “lateral femoral cutaneous nerve” that supplies sensation to your thigh.
This nerve can be compressed beneath a ligament, tendon or tight muscle in your hip and pelvis. Pregnancy or being even slightly overweight makes this condition more likely. Tight clothing including girdles, compressive shorts, or tight belts may aggravate or cause this condition. Carpenters’ tool belts or police duty belts may compress this nerve. Prolonged sitting or lying in a fetal position may aggravate this problem. Diabetics are at greater risk.
In the early stages of this condition, your symptoms are usually mild and intermittent. Walking or standing may aggravate the symptoms, and sitting tends to relieve them. In more advanced stages, numbness and tingling changes to shooting pain that is unaffected by your position.
The central goal of treatment is to decrease any cause of compression. In some cases, simply wearing looser clothing or belts may help relieve your symptoms. Some men find relief by switching from a belt to suspenders. Avoid wearing a tool belt or duty belt that places pressure over the area. If you are overweight, begin a sensible weight loss program to avoid compression from excessive tissue.