Costochondritis usually goes away on its own, although it might last for several weeks or longer. Treatment focuses on pain relief.
Your doctor might recommend:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Although certain medications, such as ibuprofen (Motrin IB) or naproxen sodium (Aleve) are available over the counter, your doctor might prescribe stronger varieties of these nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications. Side effects might include damage to your stomach lining and kidneys.
- Narcotics. If your pain is severe, your doctor might prescribe medications containing codeine, such as hydrocodone/acetaminophen (Vicodin, Norco) or oxycodone/acetaminophen (Tylox, Roxicet, Percocet). 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 medication gabapentin (Neurontin) also has proved successful in controlling chronic pain.
Physical therapy treatments might include:
- Stretching exercises. Gentle stretching exercises for the chest muscles 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. The current might interrupt or mask pain signals, preventing them from reaching your brain.
Surgical and other procedures
If conservative measures don't work, your doctor might suggest injecting numbing medication and a corticosteroid directly into the painful joint.
March 20, 2015
- Ferri FF. Costochondritis. In: Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2015: 5 Books in 1. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2015. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Feb. 4, 2015.
- Phillips K, et al. Treatment of musculoskeletal chest pain. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 4, 2015.
- McMahon SB, et al. Thoracic pain. In: Wall & Melzack''s Textbook of Pain. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 20015. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Feb. 4, 2015.
- Wise CM. Major causes of musculoskeletal chest pain in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 4, 2015.
- Frontera WR, et al. Costernal syndrome. In: Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation: Musculoskeletal Disorders, Pain, and Rehabilitation. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 20013. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Feb. 4, 2015.
- AskMayoExpert. What are the most common causes of chest wall pain? Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2014.
- McConaghy JR, et al. Outpatient diagnosis of acute chest pain in adults. American Family Physician. 2013;87:177.
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