Costochondritis – a pain in the chest!

Costochondritis is one of the most common causes of chest pain. It is estimated that around a third of people who visit their doctor with rib or chest pain have costochondritis!

What is costochondritis?

It is painful inflammation in the cartilage that connects the ribs to the breastbone (sternum).

This connection point is called the costosternal junction and those sections of cartilage are called the costochondral joints. They are strong and rigid to help the ribcage protect organs such as the heart and lungs.

When this area becomes inflamed, it can cause significant pain and discomfort. This inflammation can make breathing or moving the chest very painful. It can be sudden in onset or spread slowly across the chest.

Interestingly this condition is often mistaken for a heart attack, due to the location of the pain, however, the same issues that cause a heart attack will not cause costochondritis and having this condition doesn’t mean you are having a heart attack, which is why proper diagnosis is crucial.

For chest pain, seek out emergency medical attention to rule out life-threatening conditions such as a heart attack!


The main symptom of costochondritis is sharp, aching pain in the chest, often on the left-hand side. It can be made worse by certain movements or deep breathing. Unlike heart-related pain, costochondritis pain is typically reproducible, meaning you can trigger the discomfort by pressing on the area where the rib joins the breastbone.

Everyone experiences pain differently and each person’s pain will be unique and can range from mild to a more severe discomfort.

These symptoms may include: –

  • Pain when breathing deeply or stretching.
  • Chest pain that won’t go away on either side of the breastbone.
  • Pain in your back radiating from the chest area.
  • Shooting pain into the arms and shoulders
  • Affects more than one rib.

Movements that can make this condition worse include:

  • Coughing, sneezing, or vomiting.
  • Taking deep breaths or breathing heavily.
  • Lifting your arm above your shoulder.
  • Lying on the affected side.


The exact cause of costochondritis often remains unknown; however, it can be associated with repetitive trauma or unusual physical injury which might strain the chest area – these may include:

  • Chest infections.
  • Intense physical activity
  • Heavy lifting
  • Chest or rib injuries
  • Coughing too hard

How can Chiropractic help?

Here at Heale’s Clinics, we focus on treating and diagnosing all Musculo-skeletal disorders.

Your Chiropractor will perform a thorough examination, including a detailed medical history and physical examination. X-rays may be used to rule out other causes of chest pain and to help in the accurate diagnosis of costochondritis.

Chiropractic treatment can include various techniques which may include:

  • Spinal adjustments – misalignments in the spine, particularly the upper back, can make costochondritis worse. Adjusting these areas can reduce stress on the chest area and improve overall function.
  • Soft tissue therapy – like massage or myofascial release can help alleviate the tension in the chest muscles.
  • Exercises – rehabilitative exercises can help faster recovery and decrease inflammation and tension in the area.

In short….

While costochondritis can be a painful and somewhat frustrating condition, it is not something you have to live with. Here at Heale’s Clinics, we provide a safe and effective way to manage and reduce the symptoms of costochondritis.

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