Dr. M.J. Bazos, MD Patient Handout


About Your Diagnosis
The ribs are connected to the sternum (breast bone) by cartilage. This connection is called the “costochondral junction,” which means the joining of bone and cartilage. Costochondritis is chest pain and tenderness in this region of the chest. One type of costochondritis caused by swelling of the cartilage is called “Tietze’s syndrome.” It can occur anywhere in the chest but usually on the left side. Costochondritis is a common cause of pain in the front of the chest. No one knows what causes costochondritis, but certain forms of arthritis may cause chest pain in this area. Costochondritis is diagnosed by a medical history and physical examination. Tenderness over the cartilage is a common finding. Although there are no specific blood tests or x-rays for costochondritis, your doctor may order other tests to be sure you do not have another condition.

Living With Your Diagnosis
Individuals with costochondritis have pain and tenderness in the chest. The pain may be mild or severe and may last for several days or longer. Coughing, sneezing, deep breaths, and certain movements can make the pain worse. Some individuals feel anxious because of the pain and may feel short of breath.

Costochondritis usually goes away on its own. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen may be particularly helpful. Other treatments include heat and stretching exercises. If these treatments do not relieve the pain, a cortisone injection might be tried. Potential side effects of NSAIDs include stomach upset, ulcers, constipation, diarrhea, headaches, dizziness, difficulty hearing, and skin rash. Cortisone injections usually work quickly but require injecting a needle through the skin.

The DOs
• Take your medicines as prescribed.
• Follow your doctor’s treatment instructions.
• Ask your doctor which over-the-counter medications you may take with your prescription medications.
The DON’Ts
• Wait to see if side effects from medications will go away.
• Leave a heating pad on for more than 20 minutes at a time.
• Continue an exercise program that causes pain most of the time.

When to Call Your Doctor
• You experience any medication side effects.
• You develop a new, unexplained symptom with your chest pain.
• You experience worsening warmth or redness of the skin after a cortisone injection.