So what is costochondritis exactly?

Costochondritis is an inflammation of the cartilage in the rib cage.  This condition usually affects the cartilage where the upper ribs attach to the breastbone (sternum). This area is known as the costochondral joint or junction.

Cartilage is found throughout the body and is a flexible but tough connective tissue which acts as a shock absorber, helping to cushion the joints.

Chest pain caused by costochondritis can range from mild to severe.  Mild cases may only cause your chest to feel tender to the touch or some pain when you push on the area.  Severe cases may cause shooting pain down your limbs or unbearable chest pain.  However, a note of caution this condition might mimic that of other heart conditions or indeed a heart attack, so if you are unsure, seek professional help immediately.


The pain associated with costochondritis usually:

  • Is sharp, aching or pressure-like
  • Affects more than one rib
  • Worsens when you take a deep breath, coughing and sneezing
  • Worsens in a particular posture, such as lying down
  • Worsens with physical activity
  • Worsens with pressure on your chest, such as wearing a seatbelt or hugging someone


It’s not known exactly why the costochondral joint becomes inflamed, but in some cases it’s been linked to:

  • severe coughing which strains your chest area
  • an injury to your chest, such as blunt impact from a car accident or fall
  • physical strain from repeated exercise or sudden exertion you’re not used to, such as moving furniture
  • an infection, including respiratory tract and wound infections
  • Certain types of arthritis such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis or ankylosing spondylitis
  • wear and tear – your chest moves in and out 20 to 30 times a minute, and over time this motion can lead to discomfort in these joints.


Costochondritis may improve on its own after a few weeks, although it can last for several months or more.  The condition does not lead to any permanent problems, but may sometimes relapse.

Costochondritis can be aggravated by any activity that places stress on your chest area, such as strenuous exercise or even simple movements like reaching up to a high cupboard. Any activity that makes the pain in your chest area worse should be avoided until the inflammation in your ribs and cartilage has improved.

  • Chiropractic treatment – The objective of chiropractic in addressing costochondritis is to allow your ribs to move and glide effortlessly, particularly when you’re breathing.

You may also find it soothing to regularly apply heat to the painful area, such as using a cloth or flannel that’s been warmed with hot water.

Other treatments include:

  • Painkillers – such as paracetamol, can be used to ease mild to moderate pain. Taking  ibuprofen and naproxen 2 or 3 times a day can also help control the pain and swelling.  Aspirin is also a suitable alternative, but should not be given to children under 16 years old.  Some of these medications are not suitable for people with certain health conditions, including:
  • Asthma
  • stomach ulcers
  • high blood pressure
  • kidney or heart problems


  • Corticosteroid injections – These are extremely powerful medicines that can help reduce pain and swelling – these may be recommended if your pain is severe or other medication proves unsuitable or ineffective.


  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) – This a method of pain relief where a mild electric current is delivered to the affected area using a small battery operated device.  It works by reducing the pain signals going to the brain and spinal cord which may help relieve pain and relax muscles.  However, although TENS may be used to help relieve pain in a wide range of conditions, it does not work for everyone.

If you would like some further information, or to speak to a member of our team,  please call us on: Hitchin 01462 420077 or Luton 01582 579687, alternatively e-mail us at: or