Costochondritis

Overview

Definition

Costochondritis is pain in the front of the chest wall. In particular, it is irritation where the bone and cartilage part of the ribs meet.

Sometimes there is also chest swelling and inflammation. This is a condition referred to as Tietze’s syndrome. Neither costochondritis nor Tietze’s syndrome is a serious disease. However, their symptoms are similar to those of several dangerous conditions, like a heart attack .

The Rib Cage
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Causes

The cause of costochondritis is often not known. At other times, the condition can occur due to injury or overuse.

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your chance of costochondritis include:

  • Infection, especially following trauma to the chest
  • Arthritis, especially:
    • Osteoarthritis
    • Rheumatoid arthritis
    • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Heavy lifting and strenuous exercise

SymptomsandDiagnosis

Symptoms

Costochondritis may cause:

  • Sharp, localized chest pain, which may be made worse by sneezing, coughing, deep breathing, or twisting motions of the chest
  • Tenderness or swelling over a joint between:
    • Rib cartilage and breast bone
    • Rib cartilage and rib bone swelling

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your doctor may do further tests if the diagnosis is not clear. Tests to examine the ribs more closely may include a chest x-ray .

Treatments

Treatment

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Most costochondritis will eventually go away on its own. Treatment is optional, but choices include the following:

Hot or Cold Compresses

Compresses may help provide relief until the condition resolves itself. Try hot and cold compresses to see which is more helpful.

Medications

Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter medications to relieve pain and swelling.

Cortisone Injections

A local anesthetic and medication (cortisone) may be injected directly into the area. This may be done if the discomfort does not respond to other treatments.

Prevention

There are no current guidelines to prevent costochondritis.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.

a (Tietze’s Syndrome)

RESOURCES

Family Doctor—The American Academy of Family Physicians http://familydoctor.org 

Nemours Kid's Health http://kidshealth.org 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca 

The College of Family Physicians of Canada http://www.cfpc.ca 

References

Costochondritis. EBSCO Dynamed Plus website. Available at:  http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114285/Costochondritis . Updated March 23, 2015. Accessed November 24, 2015.

Proulx AM, Zryd TW. Costochondritis: Diagnosis and treatment. Am Fam Physician. 2009;80(6):617-620.