Costochondritis--Symptoms and
Top 10 Natural Remedies
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August 25, 2010, last updated May 24, 2016

By Louise Carr, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist

[Health and fitness articles are reviewed by our team of
Doctors and Registered Nurses and other members of our
Editorial Board.]

You’re experiencing intense chest pain, in the center or left
side of your chest? It’s got to be a heart attack, right?  
Perhaps. But it could also be a little known condition called

Costochondritis is more common than you think. Acute
central chest pain is one of the most frequent reasons for
emergency medical admissions, representing 20–30 percent
of all emergency room visits according to Bass and Mayou in
‘Chest pain: Clinical review in ABC of psychological medicine’,
2002.  But according to a 2000 study, non-cardiac chest pain
represents 50 to 60 percent of these admissions (Mayou RA,
Bass C, Hart G, Tyndel S Bryant B. ‘Can clinical assessment of
chest pain be made more therapeutic?’, 2000). The point is,
heart attack must always be considered but there are other
causes of chest pain to take into account.

Costochondritis is an inflammatory condition which affects
the joints of the upper ribs where they meet the cartilage that
binds them to the breastbone. You can reproduce the pain
caused by costochondritis by pushing down on the front of
your ribcage.

In a 1994 emergency department study, 30 percent of
patients with chest pain had costochondritis (Disla E, Rhim
HR, Reddy A, Karten I, Taranta A. ‘Costochondritis. A
prospective analysis in an emergency department setting’,

In this study, women were more likely to suffer from
costochondritis than men, making up 69 percent of patients
with costochondritis versus 31 percent in the control group.
In adults, costochondritis often presents as a heart attack
because the symptoms are remarkably similar.

Pain from costochondritis is usually located in the front chest
wall and may spread to your back or abdomen.

[Update: The pain can easily move from your ribs to your
back because, "The rib and associated thoracic vertebral
segment can be described as a fixed ring analogous to a hula
hoop", according to a 2010 study from the Curry School of
Education and Department of Athletics, University of Virginia.]

As with a heart attack, the pain is more common on the left
side of your body. However, pain from costochondritis
increases as you move or as you take deep breaths and
decreases when your breathing quietens or you stop moving;
this is not necessarily the case with heart attack.

Pain in the chest, when it exists on its own, can be a sign of
costochondritis. According to the American Heart Association,
most heart attacks also cause additional symptoms. If you are
suffering from persistent chest pain with any of the
following: nausea, sweating, shortness of breath or pain in
the left arm, go to the emergency room as it could be the sign
of a heart attack. Chest pain is a serious matter and you
should consult a medical professional if in doubt so they can
rule out heart attack. (Read more about the
symptoms of
heart attack from survivors.)

While costochondritis can be terrifying, it is a relatively
harmless condition and will often disappear on its own. There
are, however, some things you can do to minimize the

Here are 10 natural remedies for costochondritis:

Carry Your Bags Differently

Costochondritis is common in children who carry around
heavy book bags. According to Jagvir Singh, MD, of the
Division of Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Lutheran General
Hospital of Park Ridge, Illinois, costochondritis is a common
cause of chest pain in children, accounting for 10 to 30
percent of all chest pains reported by kids and adolescents.

Dr. Singh estimates that around 650,000 cases of chest pain
in young people are caused by costochondritis each year. The
peak age is 12-14 years. Children who carry heavy school
bags, particularly over one shoulder, are thought to be at a
higher risk of developing costochondritis.

Encourage your child to carry his or her school bag correctly;
if it’s a backpack, use both straps. Or consider a pull-along
bag to minimize strain on the upper back. Take some of the
load away because if your child’s bag is so heavy it causes his
or her shoulders to slump, it can cause damage.

In addition, carrying a too-heavy book bag can cause severe
posture problems, which can affect your child's health in
other unintended ways. (Read more about
how bad posture
affects your overall  health, including your decision-making.)

Don't Overdo Sports or Weight Lifting

Sports and heavy lifting can cause costochondritis. These
activities can cause trauma to your chest wall.

A blow to the chest or an injury sustained through sport or
strenuous activity is commonly believed to cause
costochondritis due to the internal damages suffered by the
cartilage and joints in the chest. It may seem obvious, but
take care when playing sports and make sure you carry heavy
objects in a safe way.

Costochondritis May Be Caused By Viral or Bacterial

Costochondritis can be caused by a respiratory infection.
Respiratory infections make you cough, so the costochondral
junctions or the respiratory system can be damaged by the
viral infection itself, or from the strain you put on your body
from coughing. (Read more about
remedies for bronchial

Take the normal steps to prevent respiratory infection by
washing your hands regularly, avoid sharing drinking glasses
or utensils with others and limit your exposure to people
suffering from
colds and flu. Bacterial or fungal infections of
the costochondral joints occur uncommonly and are usually
associated with patients who are intravenous drug users or
who have had thoracic surgery (Gotway MB, Marder SR,
Hanks DK, Leung JW, Dawn SK, Gean AD, et al. ‘Thoracic
complications of illicit drug use: an organ system approach’,
2002). After surgery, the cartilage can become more prone to
infection due to a decrease in blood flow to the region.

Exercise Can Cause Costochondritis

According to a 2009 study, costochondritis is a common
cause of atypical chest pain in athletes (Sik EC, Batt ME,
Heslop LM. ‘Atypical chest pain in athletes’, 2009).

Strenuous exercise has been linked to costochondritis and an
intensive session on the weights can result in a strain,
especially if you repeatedly twist the upper torso, or stretch
the upper body without an effective warm-up. If you’re
having an attack of costochondritis, avoid working out at the
gym, taking part in contact sports or putting unnecessary
strain on your body until the symptoms lessen. Then you can
pick up your levels of physical activity gradually until you’re
ready to hit the treadmill pain-free.

On the other hand, exercise can be a great long-term remedy
for costochondritis as it keeps your joints supple and
decreases risk of injury. Experts Rovetta, Sessarego, and
Monteforte recommend a series of stretching exercises for
minimizing the pain caused by costochondritis (‘Stretching
exercises for costochondritis pain’, 2009).

Treat Costochondritis With Painkillers

While there is no specific treatment for costochondritis, you
can reduce the pain by careful use of nonsteroidal anti-
inflammatory medications like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or
naproxen (Aleve). Cough suppressants can help if the pain
appears to have been caused by intense coughing fits.

Treat Costochondritis With Heat and Cold

For drug-free pain relief, try the local application of ice packs
or heating pads to relieve the symptoms of costochondritis.
Change your ice and heat pads regularly for the most calming
and pain-relieving effects. The use of ice is recommended for
20-minute intervals.

Costochondritis Could Be A Symptom of Fibromyalgia

If you are suffering from recurring bouts of costochondritis
you may actually have
fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is a
widespread musculoskeletal pain and fatigue disorder for
which the cause is still unknown.

Fibromyalgia means pain in the fibrous tissues in the body
and can present as pain throughout the body and a feeling or
tiredness and
tenderness in the joints. The upper part of the
breastbone can be particularly tender. According to UK
Fibromyalgia, fibromyalgia in the general population has a
prevalence ranging from 1.3 to 7.3 percent.

Referred Pain Can Cause Costochondritis

Your body is hard to read sometimes because it turns out that
pain can be misinterpreted by the brain causing you to hurt in
places far away from where the actual problem is happening.
Doctors call this ‘referred pain’ and suggest that pain in your
chest could actually be caused by problems with the bones in
the spine wrongly pressing down on the nerves.

Costochondral Joint Injection Can Ease Pain

A course of costochondral joint injection is often
recommended for people in severe pain from costochondritis
or for sufferers who cannot take oral analgesic painkillers.

Acupuncture Can Help Ease Costochondritis

Some people report a lessening of symptoms when they turn
to acupuncture for help. Acupuncture, a form of Chinese
medicine involving the insertion of needles into the skin to
treat conditions and reduce pain, can relieve cases of
costochondritis that keep coming back.

Biofeedback is also used to treat chest pain and muscle
tension although no studies exist as to its effectiveness in the
case of costochondritis.


Did you know that Vitamin deficiency has been linked with
costochondritis? In 2012, two doctors (Dr. R.C. Oh and Dr. J.
D. Johnson) from Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii
observed that a significant number of patients with
costochondritis also had
Vitamin D deficiency.

The link between Vitamin D deficiency and chest pain from
costochondritis is not clear but researchers speculate that
since Vitamin D is needed for bone health throughout your
body, a deficiency could cause weaker rib cage and chest
bones, resulting in pain.

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Costochondritis pain can mimic a heart