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Costochondritis

(Tietze’s Syndrome)

Pronounced: COST-o-kon-DRY-tis

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 chest 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    TOP

The cause of costochondritis is often not known. At other times, the condition can occur due to injury or overuse.

Risk Factors    TOP

Factors that may increase your chance of costochondritis include:

Symptoms    TOP

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 swelling

Diagnosis    TOP

You will be asked 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    TOP

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 over-the-counter medications to relieve pain and swelling.

Cortisone Injections    TOP

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    TOP

There are no current guidelines to prevent costochondritis.

RESOURCES:

Family Doctor—The American Academy of Family Physicians
http://familydoctor.org
Nemours Kid's Health
http://kidshealth.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

The College of Family Physicians of Canada
http://www.cfpc.ca

References:

Costochondritis. EBSCO Dynamed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114285/Costochondritis. Updated March 23, 2015. Accessed November 24, 2015.
Proulx AM, Zryd TW. Costochondritis: Diagnosis and treatment. Am Fam Physician. 2009;80(6):617-620.
Last reviewed November 2015 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 11/24/2015

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