Here is a symptom comparison pitting GERD vs. costochondritis.
“Doctors should, generally, be able to distinguish between heartburn symptoms of GERD and costochondritis,” says Larry Good, MD, a gastroenterologist who’s been practicing for 40+ years. He has a private practice in Lynbrook, NY and is affiliated with Concierge Choice Physicians, a leading provider of personalized care in the U.S.
So what exactly is GERD?
GERD stands for gastroesophageal reflux disease, and laypeople usually call it heartburn.
Dr. Good explains, “The former [GERD] is a hot, burning sensation arising behind the breastbone and ascending the chest.” GERD can also present as a duller ache that has only a slight burning or mild abrasive feel to it.
Usually, but not always, an antacid will resolve the discomfort of GERD soon after taking it.
A painkiller such as ibuprofen will not have any effect on the burn or ache of acid reflux.
Lying down may worsen the symptoms, since this eliminates gravity’s effect on the acid.
What is costochondritis?
Dr. Good describes this as a “sharp, knife-like pain made worse by inspiration [taking in a breath]. The junction between the ribs and sternum are usually tender in patients with costochondritis.
“History of chest trauma, cough or recent respiratory infection is common among costochondritis patients.”
Costochondritis can be aggravated when the patient moves in certain positions, including their arms.
Inflammation of the intercostal cartilage is what’s going on here, and yet another possible cause for this is working out with weights, though this cause is very uncommon.
A heartburn pill will not relieve this symptom, but a painkiller may bring some relief.
“The chest X-ray is usually normal in both conditions,” says Dr. Good.
Another point to make, when it comes to GERD vs. costochondritis, is that a person may, by sheer coincidence, have both conditions at the same time.
Dr. Good has additional expertise in the diagnosis/treatment of IBS and inflammatory bowel disease, and is extremely proactive in genetic testing, individualization of pharmacologic treatment, and risk mitigation in cancer screening/prevention. Concierge Choice Physicians
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.