Costochondritis usually goes away on its own, although in some cases it may last for several months or longer. Treatment focuses on pain relief.
If over-the-counter pain relievers aren't enough, your doctor may recommend:
- Prescription NSAIDs. While some nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) — such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others) and naproxen (Aleve) — can be purchased over-the-counter, stronger varieties are available by prescription. NSAIDs can damage your stomach lining and kidneys.
- Narcotics. If your pain is severe, your doctor might prescribe medications containing codeine, such as hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab, others) or oxycodone (Percocet, Roxilox, others). Narcotics can be habit-forming.
- Antidepressants. Tricyclic antidepressants, such as amitriptyline, are often used to control chronic pain — especially if it's keeping you awake at night.
- Anti-seizure drugs. The epilepsy drug gabapentin (Neurontin, Gralise, others) also has proven successful in controlling chronic pain.
Physical therapy treatments might include:
- Stretching exercises. Gentle range-of-motion exercises may be helpful.
- Nerve stimulation. In a procedure called transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), a device sends a weak electrical current via adhesive patches on the skin near the area of pain. This may interrupt or mask pain signals, preventing them from reaching your brain.
Surgical and other procedures
If conservative measures don't work, your doctor may suggest injecting numbing medication and a corticosteroid directly into the painful joint.
May. 05, 2012
- Wise CM. Major causes of musculoskeletal chest pain. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed March 5, 2012.
- Frontera WR, et al. Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation: Musculoskeletal Disorders, Pain, and Rehabilitation. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2008. http://www.mdconsult.com/das/book/body/208746819-6/0/1678/0.html. Accessed March 5, 2012.
- Proulx AM, et al. Costochondritis: Diagnosis and treatment. American Family Physician. 2009;80:617.
- Stochkendahl MJ, et al. Chest pain in focal musculoskeletal disorders. Medical Clinics of North America. 2010;94:259.
- Wise CM. Clinical evaluation of musculoskeletal chest pain. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed March 6, 2012.
- Phillips K, et al. Treatment of musculoskeletal chest pain. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed March 6, 2012.