skeleton with chostochondritis

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Imagine feeling a sharp, stabbing pain in your chest that makes you worry about a heart attack. Surprisingly, this common yet alarming symptom often points to a lesser-known condition called costochondritis. Affecting millions, costochondritis is an inflammation of the cartilage that connects your ribs to your sternum, causing discomfort and anxiety for many.

Causes of Costochondritis

Costochondritis can result from various factors, including:

coughing man on grey couch feeling costochondritis pain
  1. Trauma or Injury: Direct trauma to the chest, such as from a car accident or a fall, can lead to inflammation of the costal cartilage.
  2. Physical Strain: Repetitive physical activities or heavy lifting can strain the chest muscles and cartilage, causing inflammation.
  3. Infections: Certain infections, particularly those affecting the upper respiratory tract, can lead to costochondritis.
  4. Arthritis: Conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis can cause inflammation in the cost sternal junction.
  5. Unknown Causes: In many cases, the exact cause of costochondritis remains unidentified.

Symptoms of Costochondritis

The primary symptom of costochondritis is chest pain, which can range from mild to severe. This pain is typically:

  • Localized: Pain is often felt in the front of the chest, particularly where the ribs meet the sternum.
  • Sharp or Aching: The pain may be sharp and stabbing or a dull, aching discomfort.
  • Worsened by Movement: Activities that involve upper body movement, deep breathing, or coughing can exacerbate the pain.
  • Tenderness: Pressing on the affected area usually reproduces the pain, which is a key diagnostic feature.

Diagnosis of Costochondritis

  • Palpate the Chest: Press on the cost sternal junction to check for tenderness and pain.
  • Review Symptoms: Discuss the patient’s symptoms, their onset, and any recent activities or injuries that might be related.
  • Rule Out Other Conditions: Since chest pain can be associated with heart issues, tests like an electrocardiogram (ECG), chest X-rays, or blood tests may be conducted to exclude other causes.

Treatment Options

Treatment for costochondritis focuses on relieving pain and inflammation. Common approaches include:

  • Medications:
    • Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs): Medications like ibuprofen or naproxen can help reduce inflammation and pain.
    • Pain Relievers: Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen may be recommended for managing discomfort.
  • Physical Therapy:
    • Stretching and Strengthening Exercises: Specific exercises can improve flexibility and strengthen the chest muscles, reducing strain on the costal cartilage.
    • Heat or Ice Therapy: Applying heat or ice packs to the affected area can alleviate pain and inflammation.
    • Rest and Activity Modification: Avoiding activities that exacerbate the pain and allowing the chest to rest can promote healing.
    • Injections: In severe cases, corticosteroid injections directly into the affected area may be used to reduce inflammation.

Managing Costochondritis: Lifestyle and Home Remedies

In addition to medical treatment, certain lifestyle changes and home remedies can help manage costochondritis:

  • Ergonomic Adjustments: Ensuring proper posture and using ergonomic furniture can minimize strain on the chest.
  • Gradual Physical Activity: Gradually increasing the intensity of physical activities can prevent overuse injuries.
  • Stress Management: Practicing stress-relief techniques such as yoga or meditation can help reduce muscle tension and associated pain.
  • Dietary Considerations: Maintaining a balanced diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and omega-3 fatty acids, can support overall health and reduce inflammation.

How The Therapy Network Can Help

The Therapy Network (TTN) provides specialized physical therapy services to help manage and treat costochondritis. Their experienced physical therapists offer:

  • Individualized Treatment Plans: Customized exercise programs to strengthen the chest muscles and improve flexibility, reducing strain on the costal cartilage.
  • Manual Therapy Techniques: Hands-on techniques to alleviate pain and improve mobility in the chest area.
  • Patient Education: Guidance on proper posture, ergonomic adjustments, and activities to avoid to prevent exacerbation of symptoms.
  • Convenient Access to Care: With multiple locations and flexible scheduling, TTN ensures easy access to appointments, allowing for timely and consistent treatment.

For more information and to book an appointment, visit The Therapy Network.

When to Seek Medical Attention

While costochondritis is generally a benign condition, it is essential to seek medical attention if you experience:

  • Severe or Worsening Pain: If the chest pain is severe or progressively worsening, it is crucial to consult a healthcare provider.
  • Difficulty Breathing: Any difficulty in breathing or shortness of breath should be evaluated by a medical professional.
  • Symptoms of Heart Problems: If chest pain is accompanied by symptoms such as dizziness, sweating, or pain radiating to the arm or jaw, seek emergency medical care as these could indicate a heart-related issue.


Costochondritis is a common cause of chest pain that, while often alarming, is typically manageable with appropriate treatment and self-care. Understanding the causes, recognizing the symptoms, and following a comprehensive treatment plan can significantly improve quality of life for those affected by this condition. If you suspect you have costochondritis or are experiencing persistent chest pain, consult a healthcare provider for a thorough evaluation and personalized treatment plan.

By staying informed and proactive in managing costochondritis, individuals can effectively alleviate their symptoms and maintain an active, healthy lifestyle.

For more detailed information and additional resources on costochondritis, visit trusted medical websites such as Mayo Clinic or WebMD.