Costochondritis (kos-toe-kon-DRY-tis) is an inflammation of the cartilage that connects a rib to the breastbone (sternum). Pain caused by costochondritis might mimic that of a heart attack or other heart conditions.
Costochondritis is sometimes known as chest wall pain syndrome, costosternal syndrome or costosternal chondrodynia. Sometimes, swelling accompanies the pain (Tietze syndrome).
What causes costochondritis is unclear. Treatment focuses on easing the pain while waiting for the condition to improve on its own, which can take several weeks or more.
The pain associated with costochondritis usually:
- Occurs on the left side of your breastbone
- Is sharp, aching or pressure-like
- Affects more than one rib
- Can radiate to arms and shoulders
- Worsens when taking a deep breath, coughing, sneezing or with any chest wall movement
When to see a doctor
For chest pain, seek emergency medical attention to rule out life-threatening causes such as a heart attack.
Costochondritis usually has no clear cause. However, costochondritis might be associated with trauma, illness or physical strain, such as severe coughing.
Costochondritis occurs most often in women older than 40.
Tietze syndrome usually occurs in teenagers and young adults, and with equal frequency in men and women.