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

si1249_96472_1

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

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:

    
  • Trauma to the chest
  • Arthritis, especially:    
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Heavy lifting and strenuous exercise
  • 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.