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What is a costovertebral joint disorder?

The bones that make up the spine are called the vertebrae. The joints between the vertebrae in the upper back and the ribs are called the costovertebral joints. A joint disorder refers to an injury affecting one of these joints. Physiotherapy is an excellent treatment for costovertebral joint disorders.

How does a costovertebral joint disorder happen?

Costovertebral joint disorders most commonly caused when the trunk and rib cage are rotated. This can overstretch the structures supporting the joint resulting in a costovertebral joint sprain.

What are the symptoms of a costovertebral joint disorder?

Costovertebral joint disorders cause a dull ache in the upper back that is made worse by deep breathing, coughing or rotation movements of the trunk and rib cage. The aching is often felt between the shoulder blades and to one side of the spine. Other symptoms may include:

What should I do if I have a costovertebral joint disorder?

If you have or suspect you have a costovertebral joint disorder, you should consult a physiotherapist for advice and treatment.

Physiotherapy treatment for a costovertebral joint disorder

The assistance of a physiotherapist is important in the treatment of a costovertebral joint disorder. Initially, your physiotherapist can assist in diagnosing your problem and determine an appropriate treatment plan. Treatment may involve activity modification, using anti-inflammatory medications, electrotherapy treatment, costovertebral joint mobilisation or stretches. Other physiotherapy options include:

What shouldn’t I do if I have a costovertebral joint disorder?

If you have or suspect you have a costovertebral joint disorder, you should not ignore the problem as this may lead to your injury deteriorating and, therefore, prolong your recovery. You should also avoid activities that aggravate your pain.

Could there be any long-term effects from a costovertebral joint disorder?

Costovertebral joint disorders do not cause long-term effects. Recovery usually takes place in a few weeks. However, your recovery may be prolonged if your costovertebral pain is due to conditions other than a typical costovertebral joint sprain. These include degenerative changes within the costovertebral joint (such as osteoarthritis) or an inflammatory condition affecting the costovertebral joint (such as ankylosing spondylitis). Your physiotherapist will be able to assess whether your pain is caused by these conditions.

To arrange a physiotherapy assessment call Physio.co.uk on 0330 088 7800 or book online.

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