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Costochondritis

AMBULATORY CARE:

Costochondritis

is a condition that causes pain in the cartilage that connects your ribs to your sternum (breastbone). Cartilage is the tough, bendable tissue that protects your bones.

Common symptoms include the following:

  • Sharp or dull, aching pain that may come and go or that gets worse over time
  • Pain when you touch your chest
  • Pain that spreads to your back, abdomen, or down your arm
  • Pain that gets worse when you move, breathe deeply, or push or lift an object
  • Trouble sleeping or doing your usual activities because of the pain

Seek immediate care if:

  • Fever
  • The painful areas of your chest look swollen and red, and feel warm to the touch
  • Pain prevents you from sleeping

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever.
  • The painful areas of your chest look swollen, red, and feel warm to the touch.
  • You cannot sleep because of the pain.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Treatment for costochondritis

may not be needed. Costochondritis pain may go away without treatment, usually within a year. Treatment may include any of the following:

  • Acetaminophen decreases pain. Acetaminophen is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children under 6 months of age without direction from your child's healthcare provider.

Manage your symptoms:

  • Rest as needed. Avoid painful movements and activities. Do not carry objects, such as a purse or backpack, if this causes pain. Avoid activities such as weightlifting until your pain decreases or goes away. Ask your healthcare provider which activities are best for you to do while you recover.
  • Apply heat to help decrease pain. Apply heat on the area for 20 to 30 minutes every 2 hours for as many days as directed.
  • Apply ice to help decrease swelling and pain. Ice may also help prevent tissue damage. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel and place it on the painful area for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed.
  • Do gentle stretching exercises. Stand in a doorway and put your hands on the door frame at the level of your ears or shoulders. Take 1 step forward and gently stretch your chest. Try this with your hands higher up on the doorway.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Costochondritis (Ambulatory Care)

Micromedex® Care Notes

Mayo Clinic Reference

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