What Causes Costochondritis?

Costochondritis is an inflammatory condition of the chest area, specifically the costosternal joints (the segments of cartilage connecting the rib bones to the sternum). The causes of costochondritis are not well understood at this time by the medical community, though Symptoms often present themselves for one of a variety of reasons

Increased physical activity

Many report symptoms after intense exercise involving the arms or chest (e.g. heavy lifting, bench press). Patients are often able to trace back to a period of extreme physical exertion. Pulling a muscle in the chest or arms, or improperly lifting a heavy load can also cause costochondritis.

Injury or trauma to the chest area

An impact or repetitive trauma to the chest (a car accident, for example) can cause costochondritis symptoms

Infections or infectious diseases

Costochondritis can be caused by infections in the chest wall or costosternal joint:

  • Viral respiratory infections are a common cause, either due to the resultant inflammation of the chest area or due to chest strain from constant coughing
  • Bacterial infections (e.g. Actinomyces, Staphylococcus, or Tuberculosis) can occur after a surgery in the chest region and may cause costochondritis
  • Fungal infections (e.g. Candida albicans or Aspergillosis) can occur but are a more rare cause of costochondritis

Arthritis

Arthritis is also an inflammatory condition (of the knees, joints, hands, etc.), so if you have a type of inflammatory arthritis such as ankylosing spondylitis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, or osteoarthritis – you may also be suffering from inflammation in the chest/ribs area.

Tumors (cancerous and non-cancerous)

Less common, but if cancer spreads to the chest area, it can cause pain and inflammation associated with costochondritis. There are many reports of cancer or tumors in the chest causing pain and masquerading as other conditions.

Vitamin D deficiency

One of the most important vitamins for health, a link between Vitamin D deficiency and Costochondritis has been indicated. There is anecdotal evidence described in at least one report that Vitamin D deficiency may be a potential cause for costochondritis, with multiple patients reporting improvements after normalizing their Vitamin D intake levels.

Chest binding

There are anecdotal reports of individuals experiencing costochondritis as a result of chest binding, as is commonly practiced in the transgender community. This is due to compression of the ribs and resulting inflammation that can occur.

Poor posture

There are anecdotal reports of individuals experiencing costochondritis due to chronically poor posture or slouching. Hunched over, head forward, looking downwards at a computer, tablet, or phone (aka the “iSlouch” or “iHunch”) for long periods of time has been reported to inflame costochondritis symptoms for some.

Side sleeping

Individuals have reported flare-ups and worsening costochondritis syndromes occurring after side sleeping, due to the compression applied to the ribs. These individuals have reported alleviation of their symptoms by sleeping on their backs.

Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia can cause pain throughout the body, including chest pains associated with costochondritis. Fibromyalgia is one of many conditions that can cause chest pain.

There is no one true, definitive cause for costochondritis though some people may be able to trace it back to a specific event such as a difficult workout, or an injury, illness, or surgery. Flare-ups can be caused by unknown triggers, though many people learn over time what specifically triggers their costochondritis symptoms.

Fortunately, there are many treatments for costochondritis and costochondritis is relatively harmless (aside from the pain!) and resolves itself over time, lasting less than a year in most cases.

What caused your Costochondritis? What causes flare-ups for you? Feel free to leave a comment below.

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