Costochondritis treatment

In certain instances, inflammation of the junctions where the upper ribs connect with the cartilage that holds the ribs to the breastbone can occur, causing very discomforting chest pains. This is a condition called costochondritis. The individual affected by costochondritis will experience localized chest pain that can be diminished by pushing on the cartilage in the front of the ribcage. In many cases, the cause is unknown, and fortunately, also in some cases, it can go away without treatment. The condition is somewhat harmless. In fact, in many children and adolescents, it is a fairly common cause of chest pain. In adults, costochondritis is often a cause of chest pain; however, chest pain in general is a concern for heart problems. Once other conditions are ruled out, costochondritis is thought to be the cause. Learn about the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of costochondritis.

While costochondritis is an inflammatory condition, the cause isn’t always known. Repeated trauma to the chest wall that is minor or viral respiratory infections can cause chest pain due to costochondritis. Also, those who have received IV drugs or who have had upper chest surgery can experience costochondritis due to a bacterial infection. Fungal causes are very rarely the culprit in costochondritis.

The pain due to costochondritis can be very discomforting. It is usually sharp, and you will feel it in the front of your chest wall; it is possible that it will radiate to the back or abdomen, but regardless, it is most common on the left side. The individual will usually experience the most pain around the fourth, fifth, and sixth ribs, and the pain will become worse if you move and when you breathe. On the other hand, it you stay still and breathe more slowly, you will experience decreased pain. This is a significant symptom to determine whether costochondritis is the condition present. When you press against the ribs and joints of the ribs, you will feel tenderness. There will typically be no swelling, as in another condition commonly confused with costochondritis called Teitze syndrome; however, if the costochondritis is a result of a bacterial infection after surgery, redness, swelling, and a pussy discharge may be present at the site of the surgery.

The best way to diagnose costochondritis is the person’s medical history (for example, if any trauma was experienced to the chest recently or if the individual has had a recent respiratory infection) and a physical exam. Tests, particularly in adults, may be done simply to rule out other conditions.


Treatment for costochondritis is pretty laid back, and many times is not even necessary. However, this is not always the case. Be gentle in your movements and avoid any unnecessary exercise or activities that may make the symptoms worse; return to normal activities only as you can tolerate them. Use non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve), as needed. Local heat or ice may be helpful to reduce symptoms.

From the doctor
Your doctor may do a steroid injection or local anesthetic in the area if normal activities are too painful. If bacteria or fungi are the cause, initial IV antibiotics will be administered; after that, about 2-3 weeks of oral antibiotics will be necessary.

If there is no response to medication or home remedies, surgery may be required to remove the sore cartilage.

Regardless of the treatment route that you take, it is important to have follow-up appointments once a year and, of course, during the recovery process. Complete recovery may take a long time.

Last updated on Aug 22nd, 2010 and filed under Musculoskeletal Disorders. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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