Costochondritis, also known as Tietze’s syndrome, is an
inflammation of the cartilage in the rib cage. The condition most often affects
the cartilage where the upper ribs attach to the breastbone (sternum). This
area is referred to as the costosternal joint.
Costochondritis causes chest pain that ranges from mild to
severe. The condition often goes away within a few weeks, but some cases may
The exact cause of costochondritis in most people is unknown.
However, some of the following conditions may cause it:
- trauma to the chest, such as blunt impact from a
car accident or fall
- physical strain from activities, such as heavy
lifting and strenuous exercise
- certain viruses or respiratory conditions (such
and syphilis) that
can cause joint inflammation
- certain types of arthritis
- tumors in the costosternal joint region
Is at Risk for Costochondritis?
Women and people over age 40 are most commonly diagnosed with
costochondritis. You may also be at a higher risk for this condition if you:
- participate in high-impact activities
- perform manual labor
- have allergies and are frequently exposed to
You’re also at increased risk if you have any of the following
Handling heavy loads in an inefficient way can stress muscles in
the chest area. For instance, younger people should be careful lifting heavy
schoolbags. Adults should be careful when performing manual labor.
Are the Symptoms of Costochondritis?
People with costochondritis often experience chest pain in the
area of the upper and middle ribs on either side of the breastbone. The pain
may radiate to the back or the abdomen. It may also get worse if you move,
stretch, or breathe deeply.
These symptoms can indicate other medical conditions, including a
heart attack. Call your doctor or go to the hospital immediately if you’re experience
persistent chest pain.
Is Costochondritis Diagnosed?
Your doctor will perform a physical exam before making a
diagnosis. They may also ask you about your symptoms and your family’s medical
history. During the physical exam, your doctor will try to assess pain levels
by manipulating your rib cage. They may also look for signs of infection or
Your doctor might order tests such as X-rays and blood tests to
rule out other conditions that may be causing your symptoms.
Is Costochondritis Treated?
There are a few different treatments for costochondritis.
Most cases of costochondritis are treated with over-the-counter medications.
If your pain is mild to moderate, your doctor will probably recommend
nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen
(Advil) or naproxen
Your doctor may also prescribe:
- prescription-strength NSAIDs
- other painkillers, such as narcotics
- antianxiety medications
Your doctor may tell you to make permanent changes to your lifestyle
if you have persistent or chronic costochondritis. Some types of exercise can
aggravate this condition, including running and weightlifting. Manual labor may
have a negative effect as well.
Your doctor may also recommend:
- bed rest
- physical therapy
- hot or cold therapy using a heating pad and ice
Your doctor may use pain levels to evaluate how you’re responding
to treatment. Once treatment is over, you can gradually build up to your previous
Is the Long-Term Outlook for People with Costochondritis?
This condition usually isn’t persistent. In many cases,
costochondritis will go away on its own.
To lower your chances of persistent and chronic costochondritis, make
sure to carry and lift heavy loads properly. You should also try doing fewer
high-impact exercises or manual labor. Call your doctor immediately if you
experience chest pain while performing any of these activities.