Costochondritis is a medical term which refers to an inflammation of the cartilage in the rib cage, usually leading to the sufferer experiencing significant pain in the chest area.

In most cases it is caused by increased activity involving the arms. Other causes include repeated minor trauma to the chest wall, overuse of the arms or viral respiratory infections.

Performing manual handling duties in a confined working area has the potential to lead to costochondritis developing in the worker charged with completing the duties.

Causes of Costochondritis

It may be the case that the specific cause of costochondritis cannot be determined. However it is likely to be one of the following:

  • Physical strain from activities including heavy lifting
  • Strenuous exercise and working in a confined space
  • Chest trauma due to blunt impact e.g. car accident or fall
  • Viruses or respiratory conditions cause joint inflammation
  • Arthritis or costosternal joint region tumors

Costochondritis and Airport Baggage Handlers

Airport Baggage Handlers are in particular danger when it comes to developing costochondritis due to the heavy weights that they are required to move in small confined spaces. Many airlines use automated machinery for loading containers of passengers’ luggage on board their airplanes. However, there are those airlines – including Ryanair – that have their baggage handling staff manually lift and move the bags around small baggage holds.

Among their daily duties baggage handlers are expected to complete tasks including, but not limited to:

  • Collect luggage
  • Sort baggage
  • Review flight manifests
  • Marshall passengers to/from flights
  • Move stairs and trolleys to assist with flight arrivals and departures

Most of these tasks involve some physical movement so it is important that the correct working environment is provided and all health and safety requirements are in place.

Health and Safety Requirements for Baggage Handlers

All staff should be given the correct health and safety training for the duties that they are expected to complete. This should direct them how to carry these out while avoiding all possible danger and injuries. If you are required to lift baggage overhead then the training must detail how to complete this.

The company you are employed by must ensure that the working area is adequate. In other words, you should not be expected to work in a confined or restricted area for a long period of time that could result in suffering or injury.

Symptoms of Costochondritis

There are a number of clear indications and symptoms that you may be suffering from costochondritis. A soreness in the chest area will be noticeable, probably following physical exercise, minor trauma or an upper respiratory infection.This may be a dull pain in general but could be sharp at the front of your front chest wall, spreading to your back or abdomen. Typically it is experienced on your left hand side.

You may experience some pain in your ribs when you take a deep breath or cough. The pain may alleviate with you stop moving or slow down your breathing to shallow breaths. However, the pain may become worse if you shift your trunk or take deep breaths.

The reproducible tenderness you feel when you press on the rib joints (costochondral junctions) is a normal symptom of costochondritis. Is this tenderness it not present then you may not be suffering from costochondritis.

Diagnosing Costochondritis

Costochondritis is diagnosed using medical history and a physical exam rather than through medical tests or x-rays. It may be that tests are used to eliminate other conditions that can have similar symptoms but are more life-threatening.

In order to make a diagnosis your doctor will attempt to reproduce tenderness on the ribs where you felt the pain. In most cases there is no significant visible swelling to be seen. Once your Doctor has diagnosed you with Costochondritis they will prescribe with the appropriate treatment.

Treating Costochondritis

It is possible to treat the condition naturally with some home remedies which would provide relief from the pain. Following an official diagnosis, however, your doctor will prescribe you with a course of medication to address the issue.

Home Remedies for Costochondritis

The following home remedies may alleviate some of the pain that you are suffering from due to costochondritis:

  • Apply local heat or ice
  • Taking ibuprofen
  • Not unnecessary physical exercise
  • Stretching exercises

Prescribed Medications for Costochondritis

Your doctor will advise the course of medication that is to be prescribed and will outline the correct dosage for you to take. This may include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen and naproxen
  • A local anesthetic and steroid injection in the area that is tender
  • Intravenous (in the vein or IV) antibiotics to treat infectious (bacterial or fungal) costochondritis

Surgery for Costochondritis

If your costochondritis does not respond to medication then is possible that a surgical removal of the sore cartilage may be required. You would be referred to a surgeon for consultation by your doctor in this instance.

Compensation Claims for Costochondritis

If you think that you may be suffering from Costochondritis due to a work related injury or the conditions that you are required to work in then you should speak to a solicitor, experienced with cases such as these, as soon as possible. They will be able to advise you on the wisest course of action for you to take to give you the best chance of success in your costochondritis compensation claim.