I have been recently diagnosed with a costochondral separation. It is now a chronic issue from an injury of August 25, 2011. My family doctor says that it's unlikely that it will heal now but could have in the acute stages if a MRI was done. Wondering if it will eventually get better and what I can do?
Did you find this post helpful?

User Profile
replied April 7th, 2013
Especially eHealthy

A magnetic reasonace imaging study does not actually treat anything. It is a study; just as a lab test, an EKG, or an x-ray is a study.

But, having an MRI done or not done, it and of itself, is not going to make any condition get better. In some cases, an MRI might diagnose a condition earlier, thus allowing from earlier treatment, but that is not the case in costochondritis or costochondral separation.

By Mayo Clinic staff

The cartilage attaching the ribs to the breastbone can tear slightly or a rib can separate completely from the cartilage. This tearing away from the cartilage is called a costochondral separation and usually causes pain and tenderness at the site of the tear or separation, states the University Sports Medicine website. The pain may occur only during activity, but it may be present at rest too. It can sometimes be confused with heart attack pain. Deep breathing, laughing and coughing may exacerbate symptoms.

Resting and icing the area can control the pain as the injury heals. Healing will be faster if activities are stopped as soon as symptoms appear. Since this condition can cause pain similar to a heart attack, it is always best to not waste time trying to determine which condition it might be and instead, seek medical attention immediately, advises MayoClinic.com

During the physical exam, your doctor will feel along your breastbone for areas of tenderness or swelling. He or she may also move your rib cage or your arms in certain ways to try to trigger your symptoms.

The pain of costochondritis can be very similar to the pain associated with heart disease, lung disease, gastrointestinal problems and osteoarthritis. While there is no laboratory or imaging test to confirm a diagnosis of costochondritis or costochondral separation, your doctor may order a variety of tests — such as a chest X-ray or an electrocardiogram — to rule out other conditions.

And again, having or not having an MRI would not change the diagnosis nor the treatment of costochondral separation or costochondritis. The best thing for these conditions is to be seen early, have a thorough physicial examination, and to be treated early. But, even with early treatment, these conditions can become chronic in nature. If this case, continued physical therapy, NSAIDs, modalities, etc is about all that can be done. Some patients get a lot better, while others tend to have a waxing and waning course, and yet others, have complete resolution of all of their symptoms. There is just no way of knowing exactly what is going to happen in any one particular patient's course.

So, again, if you continue to have symptoms, try physical therapy and some modalities. If it just continues on, you might want to see a thoracic surgeon.

Good luck.
Did you find this post helpful?

replied August 4th, 2013
Thank you for your reply and the luck! Here it is August and I'm still suffering. At least if the MRI was done, it would have diagnosed me early so I could have known what this injury was and had it properly treated. I am a nurse and the direct injury from a patient has now forced me to end my career. The injury was not treated like it should have been due to lack of care! Terrible when you are forced into a rehab program to treat an injured muscle when the ligament of the rib was trying to heal. Saw a orthopedic surgeon and he gave me the right diagnosis only to write something completely different when he wrote the compensation commission. I am now left to pick up pieces of my life and deal with chronic pain. No a MRI may not be necessary but in my case, would have prevented me from unnecessarily suffering in a corrupted system.
Did you find this post helpful?

replied October 31st, 2013
experience with costochondral separations
I've had 4 costochondral separations over the years, all from sports-related trauma. 1 from a bad gymnastics move, and the others from martial arts. I've never done anything but wrap the upper torso with a stretchy webbing for a few days to provide some extra support, and take it easy. Although the first one I didn't know what I had done, so I just wrapped the torso and carried on as usual. Mine usually take a few months to mostly heal, but give twinges under certain types of strenuous activity for over a year.

With my last two, I found that chondroitin seemed to help speed the process up a bit. Take a whole organic chicken, (minus the innards) put it in a crockpot of water for 2~3 days, adding water as necessary to keep it covered. I add celery, sea salt, carrots, and sometimes a little kale or spinach, the last 12 hrs. The bones and cartilage will have leeched a lot of their contents into the broth in a more digestible format than vitamin supplements, both calcium and chondroitin. The smaller bones and cartilage portions will be soft enough to actually consume.

I've read that a comfrey poultice helps a lot with bone injuries, but I've never tested it myself. Bought some just in case, though, for next time...

Did you find this post helpful?

replied January 6th, 2019
Rib Cartilage Fixation Surgery
I've had dislocated rib cartilage and a fracture in rib cartilage. The solution ended up being a surgery with two incisions. The lower one revealed a horizontal fracture and so it was graphted back together and wrapped using biological tissue (Peri-Guard 8CM X 14CM). The other incision revealved that it had fracture but healed at the incorrect placement so the excess was trimmed off. Then all of my muscles, fascia and skin were sutured back together. This was merely 3 weeks ago for me but so far the pain from the unstable rib cartilage seems to have been replaced with a fresh surgery wound healing pain which is getting better every day. I can only hope that I will fully recover enough to perform athletic physical activity again. Prior to surgery I was unable to return to exercise because the experience would cause me to faint. This was the proposed solution when discussing with an expert surgeon in the UK then performed by an expert surgeon in Canada. Do not believe the imaging reports that show unremarkable findings, go to the UK and find a thoracic chest wall reconstruction surgeon expert and he / she will be able to properly identify your injury.
Did you find this post helpful?
Tags: chronic, august, mri
Quick Reply
Must Read
Think you might be experiencing bone loss? Check out this Intro to Osteoporosis and evaluate your risk for developing bone weakness. ...
Although bone mass loss is normal as we age, some people are more at risk of developing osteoporosis than others. Are you at risk? More here....
Do you have severe back pain? Do your bones break frequently or with little pressure? You might be experiencing osteoporosis. Found out more here....