costochondritis injury from exercise or heavy lifting

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 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. Cancer can be mistaken for costochondritis in some cases.

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

9 thoughts on “What Causes Costochondritis?”

  1. Hi.
    I’ve been told I’ve got costochondritis over 14 months ago.still have it and totally fed up with taking loads of pills nothing is working.just got some devils claw gel as don’t want to keep taking different pills.would you recommend this gel.i just want this pain to go

    • Honey, I have suffered this for some years. Sent to exercise class, therapists. Worse off. I do not like medications. Rarely have used them since autoimmune diseases found about 50 yrs now. Try not to abuse your body. Be kind to yourself. Stay free from those who are unkind. Love the Lord, and ask for
      His wisdom & grace. Praying for you., Maria

    • Have you tried going to a chiropractor? Mine saves me every-time I have a flair up. If you don’t already have a chiropractor make sure you check credentials when looking for a chiropractor. Good luck

    • I have had this for over a year as well! September marks 13 months. I have had x-rays, CT scan and a bone scan. I see a chiropractor and have laser therapy weekly. Also have seen a myofasical release therapist. Tried Aspercreme, Salonpas, Votaren. I finally got some Dr. Solomon’s Rescue lotion. It contains THC. I am not a marijuana user but was so desperate I got a card and got this lotion. So far, it has worked the best. ALMOST total relief.

  2. I am an RN and have been for over 30 yrs. have caught patients about to hit the floor, have had open heart surgery, have hauled gallons of water up 3 flights of stairs when I lived with my daughter, was in a car
    accident a couple of years ago to name a few things. However, turmeric, bosewellia, ginseng, and Evening Primrose has greatly helped my pain. Thank you wonderful people again for your help as well.

  3. I will be getting an MRI soon to see what the diagnosis is for pain in right side lower ribs and center of my back. I do not have the typical chest area pain. Both sides of lower ribs hurt on the inhale. It began with only left side rib pain after falling and pulling the muscles in my sternum four years ago. I was told there was nothing to be done with the sternum injury but wait it out. Not long after the lower left rib pain began. Many x-rays and even a CT scan showed nothing significant. I have fractured ribs on that side several times over the years. Then I opened a window several months ago and felt a sharp pain in the right rib area. Have had bouts of bad pain on that side more so than the left side now. Taking a big inhale causes my whole rib cage to hurt. I have had Lyme Disease on and off throughout. No relief for the ribs with antibiotics.

  4. I had an accident where I rammed a metal tellers cash box into my sternum when I was 23. It knocked the out of me, I couldn’t catch my breath. The next day I couldn’t raise myself up out of bed, the pain was soo severe. I had separated the cartilage from my sternum. I wore a chest/rib brace 1 month and saw a chiropractor for treatment. I recovered well, until approx. 7 or so years ago, when I got the diagnosis the pain returned; severe at times, especially the pain near the heart. So, I bought a rib brace at a medical equipment store, use the ice/heat treatment, arnica & lavender rubbing on the area, along with anti-inflammatories; both non-RX and RX meds. Hot & cold compresses are good too, and a new my chiropractor still helps me with this wretched condition.

  5. You may have a slipped rib. I get this a lot in conjunction with costochondritis. I go to my chiropractor. Generally he will fix me after 1-2 visits. This last time it’s taking several weeks, but it’s helping. Good luck


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