I was having sharp chest pains which were radiating into my hands and wondering what was happening. After experiencing three episodes in three days, I was worried and “googled” my symptoms. Angina was the closest match, especially the chest pains and I had one previous episode of atrial fibrillation. I promptly drove to my closest urgent care facility to get checked out.
The primary care doctor ran an EKG which was normal. Angina typically occurs when the blood flow from the arteries to the heart is restricted. This often occurs with clogged arteries. Since I didn’t have that, the doctor asked about acid reflux and heartburn which can produce similar symptoms. When the doctor asked where the pain was originating, I pointed to my rib cage and sternum. He then said it was Tietze Syndrome, which is a fairly rare inflammatory condition characterized by chest pain and swelling of the cartilage of one or more of the upper ribs where they attach to the breastbone (sternum). Your pain may be gradual or sudden and may spread to affect the arms and/or shoulders. The doctor mentioned that the syndrome can be caused by a viral agent also.
The only treatment for Tietze syndrome is rest from strenuous physical activity (I backed off playing tennis and jogging for one week which helped) and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). I started using 400 mg of over-the-counter ibuprophen daily for the pain and inflammation. Doctors recommend limiting the daily dose of NSAIDs to 500 mg and stopping after 10 days to reduce side-effects including increased bleeding and blood pressure, headaches, dizziness, and heartburn.
Diagnosis of arthritis and types
As you may recall from previous posts, I fractured my left wrist back in January which required a surgical titanium implant to hold the bone in place. However, I have had more aches and soreness near that area so recently saw my orthopedist to x-ray my left hand again. He found arthritis in the thumb area which he thinks is unrelated to the implant. While that may be true, fractures in general can increase the risk of arthritis.
In addition, my neck has been bothering me and a recent x-ray shows moderate arthritis and cervical lordosis, which means the vertebrae are more straight without the normal curve.
There are two types of arthitis: osteoarthritis, which is primarily a degenerative disease, and rheumatoid arthritis. My symptoms revolve around the joint and vertabrae where the cartilage has been worn away so I appear to have osteoarthritis.
In contrast, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that can affect the entire body. Symptoms include morning stiffness and severe fatigue, as well as sore joints. Where inflammation is systemic in rheumatoid arthritis, it can occur with osteoarthritis in and around the joint.
A way to prevent further degeneration is to strengthen the muscles that surround and support the neck and thumb joint. It’s important to get instruction on how to do this correctly. I now see a physical therapist twice a week who is showing me new exercises for my neck and hand and reviewing the stretching exercises I found online for my cervical lordosis and weight lifting routine. She agreed with the stretching exercises (see link below) but corrected me on my form for weight training. “The last thing you want to do is strain your neck muscles by raising your shoulders up when lifting weights or rounding your shoulders forward in rowing movements.” She recommended I use a mirror so I can see and adjust my form.
Supplements for inflammation
Inflammation is found in many chronic conditions including type 2 diabetes and both types of arthritis. Based on my research, I started taking 1000 mg daily of curcumin, which is the most active part of turmeric and has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. Because curcurmin is poorly absorbed you want a supplement that includes bioperine or piperine from black pepper.
A research study with 1500 mg curcumin daily showed significant improvement in markers of oxidative stress, which contributes to osteoarthritis. Curcurmin was also safe and effective in another study involving people with rheumatoid arthritis. I recommend that people start with 500 mg daily (usually 1 capsule) in between meals and then increase the dosage to 1000 mg (2 500 mg capsules) if you’re not experiencing digestive side-effects. The maximum daily dose is 1500 mg (3 capsules).
Other supplements that may help with inflammation are the antioxidant alpha-lipoic acid, fish oil with DHA, ginger, the antioxidant resveratrol also found in small doses in red grapes, red wine, and blueberries, and the antioxidant spirulina, a type of blue-green algae.
If you need help ordering high-quality supplements, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. The supplement companies I use have very high standards for ensuring ingredients are safe and claims are accurate.
Neck stretching exercises: https://www.epainassist.com/back-pain/upper-back-pain/cervical-lordosis