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Costochondritis

(Tietze’s Syndrome)

How to Say It: COST-o-kon-DRY-tis

Definition

Costochondritis is painful inflammation in the front of the chest. It is in the cartilage that attaches the ribs to the breastbone.

Tietze syndrome is painful inflammation of the cartilages of the upper front of the chest and swelling of the joint.

Causes

The cause is not often known. Sometimes there is a clear cause of irritation to the area such as:

  • Trauma
  • Muscular imbalance
  • Inflammation of the nervous system
  • Recent or current vigorous coughing

Risk Factors

This problem is more common in women, especially those who are athletes, such as rowers. Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • A spine or joints with an unusually large range of motion
  • Repetitive activity of upper body

Symptoms

Problems may be:

  • Sharp pain that may be worse when:
    • Sneezing or coughing
    • Deep breathing
    • Twisting motions of the upper body
  • Tenderness or swelling over a joint between the rib and breastbone

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.

Your doctor may do tests to rule out more serious health problems, such as heart or lung issues. Tests may include a chest x-ray or an EKG.

Treatment

This problem will often go away on its own within a few weeks or months. Symptoms can be managed with:

  • Supportive care, such as resting the area and using warm or cold packs to ease pain and swelling
  • Medicines to ease pain and swelling, such as:
    • Over the counter pain medicines
    • Corticosteroids

People who are not helped by these methods may need physical therapy. An exercise program will be created to promote strength, flexibility, and range of motion.

Prevention

There are no known methods to prevent this health problem.

RESOURCES:

Family Doctor—The American Academy of Family Physicians
https://familydoctor.org

Kids Health—Nemours Foundation
http://kidshealth.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

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

Health Canada
https://www.canada.ca

REFERENCES:

Costochondritis. EBSCO Dynamed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/costochondritis. Accessed September 15, 2021.

Costochondritis. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/costochondritis.html. Accessed September 15, 2021.

Last reviewed July 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mary-Beth Seymour, RN  Last Updated: 9/15/2021