Costochondritis

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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 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:

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

Diagnosis

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 may include a chest x-ray.

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 some 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.

Revision Information

  • Family Doctor—The American Academy of Family Physicians

    http://familydoctor.org

  • Nemours Kids Health

    http://kidshealth.org

  • Health Canada

    http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

  • The College of Family Physicians of Canada

    http://www.cfpc.ca

  • Costochondritis. EBSCO Dynamed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. 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. 200915;80(6):617-620.