Costochondritis is a an inflammation of the cartilage that joins the ribs to the sternum, typically resulting in pain. The cause of costochondritis is unknown usually (though there are many potential causes). Fortunately, costochondritis is harmless aside from the pain and there are a variety of treatments and home remedies available. Costochondritis will typically go away on its own within a few weeks to a few months, though some have reported experiencing symptoms for years. The condition tends to flare up off and on over time for some people.
Symptoms of costochondritis include:
- Sharp pain or tenderness in the chest, specifically where the rib attaches to the breastbone
- Pain usually gets worse as you press on the cartilage or stretch the nearby muscles
- Pain is most commonly in the 3rd, 4th, 5th, or 6th ribs
- Pain may increase with deep breathing
If you are experiencing chest pain, it is important to see a physician to confirm what is causing your symptoms. Be sure to call a physician if you are having trouble breathing, have a high fever, or have any signs of infection.
Tietze syndrome is a similar condition to costochondritis, but is much more rare and has the additional symptom of swelling in the cartilage area. There is no swelling with costochondritis. Tietze also more commonly affects the 2nd or 3rd rib joint.
Other common causes of chest pain
Costochondritis may be confused for several other conditions that present similar chest pain symptoms:
- Lower rib pain syndrome
- Sternalis syndrome
- Thoracic joint dysfunction
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Ankylosing spondylitis
- Psoriatic arthritis
- Stress fracture