Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit familydoctor.org, the AAFP patient education website.
Information from Your Family Doctor
Costochondritis: What You Need to Know
FREE PREVIEW. AAFP members and paid subscribers: Log in to get free access. All others: Purchase online access.
FREE PREVIEW. Purchase online access to read the full version of this article.
Am Fam Physician. 2009 Sep 15;75(10):1.
See related article on costochondritis.
What is costochondritis?
Costochondritis (koss-toe-con-DRY-tiss) is an inflammation in your rib cage where cartilage connects the ribs to the breastbone (sternum). It is also called chest wall pain or costosternal (koss-toe-STIR-null) syndrome. The main symptom is pain in the chest wall. The pain is often sharp, aching, or pressure-like. The pain gets worse with movement, deep breathing, or exercise. Pressing on the affected area of the rib can also cause pain.
What causes it?
It usually has no known cause, but it can happen after a severe coughing episode or during physical activity that involves the upper body.
When should I see a doctor?
Any patient with chest pain should see a doctor. Evaluation is especially important for persons older than 35 years and those with risk factors for heart disease, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes.
How is it treated?
Costochondritis is not life threatening and will not cause any other conditions. Medicine can help with the pain. These include acetaminophen (one brand: Tylenol), nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as aspirin or ibuprofen [one brand: Advil]), or other pain relievers, as appropriate. Use of a heating pad may also help. Consider decreasing any activities that make the pain worse.
How long does it take to get better?
The pain can last from weeks to months, but it will heal on its own.
Where can I get more information?
Your family doctor
American Academy of Family Physicians
Web site: http://familydoctor.org
This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at http://familydoctor.org.
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.
Copyright © 2009 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP. Contact email@example.com for copyright questions and/or permission requests.
Want to use this article elsewhere? Get Permissions