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 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
The Rib Cage
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The cause of costochondritis is often not known. At other times, the condition can occur due to injury or overuse.
Several types of
may also affect this area.
There are no known risk factors for costochondritis.
If you have any of these symptoms, do not assume it is due to costochondritis. These symptoms may be caused by other, serious health conditions such as
heart attack, digestive problems, and
bone cancer. See your doctor of you have any of these symptoms:
- 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 ribs and breast bone
Your doctor will ask 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 and to rule out other conditions may include:
- Chest x-ray—a test that uses radiation to take pictures of the chest
- Blood tests
- Electrocardiogram (ECG,EKG)—a test that records the heart's activity by measuring electrical currents through the heart muscle to evaluate the heart
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:
Compresses may help provide relief until the condition resolves itself. Try hot and cold compresses to see which is more helpful.
Your doctor may recommend some over the counter medicines. These may include
(Advil, Motrin), or
A local anesthetic and
medication called cortisone
may be injected directly into the area. This may be done if the discomfort does not respond to other treatments.
Costochondritis occurs spontaneously at any age. It often occurs without warning or identified causes. There is no way to prevent it.
Costochondritis. EBSCO Dynamed website. Available at:
. Updated November 30, 2009. Accessed September 12, 2012.
Gilliland BC. Relapsing polychondritis and other arthritides. In: Isselbacher K, et al. Eds.
Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 14th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 1998:1055.
Proulx AM, Zryd TW. Costochondritis: diagnosis and treatment.
Am Fam Physician. 2009 Sep 15;80(6):617-620.
Last reviewed September 2012 by Brian Randall, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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