Costochondritis occurs at the joints between the ribs and the sternum (breastbone). The condition is sometimes also known as Tietze's syndrome.
Symptoms include chest pain which gets worse or comes on with activity. The pain is felt at the front of the upper chest and is made worse by breathing deeply. Chest pain may also occur when applying direct pressure to the joints.
What is Tietze's syndrome?
Costochondritis is an inflammatory condition, thought to be caused by overuse, resulting in repetitive micro-trauma. The two bones themselves are cushioned by cartilage inside the joint. It is this cartilage which is damaged and results in inflammation.
This condition is most common in younger people. It has also been linked to rowers and following car accidents when the driver's chest hits the steering wheel. It may also result from viral and bacterial infections. The 4th, 5th and 6th ribs are the most common joints for costochondritis to occur.
Diagnosis is usually based on the patient's history and a physical examination. Further tests such as blood tests and x-rays may be undertaken to rule out other conditions.
Treatment may consist of resting or avoiding all aggravating movements activities. Cold therapy applied directly to the chest may be beneficial. A doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen. Joint mobilizations may also help.