With the loss of height from osteoporosis in the elderly, the lowermost side ribs can rub on the side wing of the hip crest, resulting in was patients describe as back pain. To make things worse, this rubbing restricts walking, making doctors think it is spinal stenosis. The patient then remains in pain and untreated.
I had an elderly lady in today that was suffering from chronic back pain. I had her sit down sideways on a chair with her back facing me. I then put my index fingers in the lower abdomen and my thumbs by the lower spine and tried to approximate them. This was fine on the right side, but impossible on the left because the ribs disappeared below the iliac crest. In that area was her back pain, and when injected (with local and steroid) the pain was numbed.
This is the third case in recent years I have seen. In each case, they have had to suffer with pain levels of 5-6/10 needlessly
Muscles play a definite role in this disorder, and I had to work the quadratus lumborum and flank muscles over a period of time to relax the muscles enough for the ribs to come out of the pelvis.
There are several names for the syndrome:
Iliocostal Friction syndrome
Costo-iliac impingment syndrome
rib tip syndrome
cricket bowler’s side strain.(though some are just crowded ribs)
Examination: – flexion and sidebending to side can aggravate – maybe hear a snapping sound if lucky
Bone scan can demonstrate how periostitis is diffuse so cortisone shot needs to be equally diffuse…
Differential diagnosis –
- rib impingement of especially 11th rib where ribs are so crowded together they rub on one another
- Thoracolumbar (TL) syndrome where pain referred from T10-12 hurts at the iliac crest point laterally – usually gluteal muscles are knotted as well. OK here’s the thing – these levels are involved anyway so facet dysfunction at these levels is almost going to be a given – making this now much more difficult to deal with.
A more complete discussion of this TL sydrome can be read in this Canadian Chiropractic article:
Thoracolumbar syndrome as a cause of low-back pain: a report of two cases
Dan Proctor, Pierre Dupuis,J. David Cassidy
The Journal of the CCA/Volume 29 No. 2/June 1985. 71-73
free full article here
- There will probably be a scoilosis at thoracolumbar junction. Those levels that don’t follow the curve will be tender. I use an activator to thump them in position.
- The quadratus lumborum and associated flank muslces are very tight and I use various stretch techniques to work them out so the rib is no longer pulled into pelvis. One way is to pinch the area and shake it 120 times.
- A rib belt worn above the iliac crest is supposedly helpful but I have never got anyone to use one. One article corrected the scoliosis some by “a lumbosacral compression orthosis fitted over an underlying sacroiliac belt placed to widen the right costoiliac distance.”in:
Gait, T. (2013).
Iliocostal Friction Syndrome Causing Flank Pain in a Patient with a History of Stroke with Scoliosis and Compensated.
American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation 2013 in press abstract herein one study:
Patel, Shounuck I., et al.
Iliocostal Friction Syndrome Causing Flank Pain in a Patient with a History of Stroke with Scoliosis and Compensated Trendelenburg Gait.
American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation 93.7 (2014): 632-633.
they stated “lumbosacral compression orthosis fitted over an underlying sacroiliac belt”…Because this successfully provided pain relief, a custom thermoplast scoliosis brace was prescribed to separate the abutting lower ribs and iliac crest.”
Came across a vendor recently that sold scoliosis braces:
If anyone has tried something like that? – let us know if it workedone reference:http://www.hss.edu/professional-conditions_adult-scoliosis-low-lumbar-degenerative-disease-spinal-stenosis.asp#.VWk3rUY9ZUM
suggested “back brace and corset”
A more simple belt has been found helpful:
Use of Rib Compression Belt for Pain in Osteoporosis
Gerald G. Hirschberg et al
Orthotics and Prosthetics 39(2) 75-79, 1985
- I injection local and kenaolg 40 mg into the sore areas. Those that persist I will use semi-neurolytic 5% lidocaine 7.5% dextrose as nerve blocks. Some anesthetists will use alcohol blocks.
- The upper iliac crest muscles will be affected if there is a thoracolumbar syndrome and the muscles will need injecting or needling and massaging out repeatedly.
- Some of the literature cases (cricket ones) required rib removal as a treatment.
- A Quadratus lumbotum stretch that does not require sidebending would be to just push down on the iliac crest with hands:
- Myofascial release techniques would be helpful.
I’m sure there is more but the literature is either too old or foreign journals…
Addendum – working on an elderly lady with such:
1) Desensitized rib and ilaic crest margin with steroid shots.
2) Worked out Quadratus lumborum and associated muscles
3) Now pain was more in upper gluteal wing and was able to find thoracolumbar was sore (did not complain about it) – activator to TL area and injected/massaged out gluteal triggers.
4) TL better; still some upper gluteal but more pain the should have – Now what?? – well I missed the piriformis which is a friend of the Quadatrus lumborum. I thought I had checked it before; suspect it was a minor issue compared to what else she had. Have started the stretch/massage technique as per a recent article:
How Should One Investigate Chronic Back Pain and What about the Back Muscles?
She felt much better since – is amazing how many facets a problem can involve. I always expected the psoas to be a big one but haven’t noticed it yet…
addendum – a good discussion of adult scoliosis available here: