Costochondral Separation

A Costochondral separation, sometimes known as a rib separation, usually occurs after a direct impact on the chest.

Costochondral separation symptoms

Symptoms of a costochondral separation include:

  • Sudden sharp pain at the point where your rib meets the sternum (chest bone).
  • You may feel a popping sensation at the time of injury.
  • Your initial pain may subside, only to gradually become worse again over time.
  • Pain is worse if you take deep breaths, cough, or sneeze.

What is a Costochondral separation?

A Costochondral separation occurs when one or more ribs become separated from the costochondral joint at the sternum. It can be very painful, especially when breathing deeply, and can take several months to fully recover.


Costochondral joints

Ribs attach to the sternum via cartilage. The costochondral joints are the joints formed by the ribs and the cartilage.

A separation of the bone from the cartilage is similar to joint dislocation. This injury may also be known as a separated rib.


A separation of one of the costochondral joints usually occurs after an impact, for example, falling onto the side of your body. Or being hit by something. Violent twisting movements can also result in a costochondral separation as can coughing violently.


  • Treatment is mostly rest.
  • Seek medical attention to rule out any complications such as a fractured rib or pneumothorax.
  • Your doctor may prescribe painkillers to ease your discomfort and allow you to breathe more normally. This injury will usually take around 2-3 months to heal fully.
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