Costochondritis: diagnosis and treatment

Am Fam Physician. 2009 Sep 15;80(6):617-20.


Costochondritis, an inflammation of costochondral junctions of ribs or chondrosternal joints of the anterior chest wall, is a common condition seen in patients presenting to the physician's office and emergency department. Palpation of the affected chondrosternal joints of the chest wall elicits tenderness. Although costochondritis is usually self-limited and benign, it should be distinguished from other, more serious causes of chest pain. Coronary artery disease is present in 3 to 6 percent of adult patients with chest pain and chest wall tenderness to palpation. History and physical examination of the chest that document reproducible pain by palpation over the costal cartilages are usually all that is needed to make the diagnosis in children, adolescents, and young adults. Patients older than 35 years, those with a history or risk of coronary artery disease, and any patient with cardiopulmonary symptoms should have an electrocardiograph and possibly a chest radiograph. Consider further testing to rule out cardiac causes if clinically indicated by age or cardiac risk status. Clinical trials of treatment are lacking. Traditional practice is to treat with acetaminophen or anti-inflammatory medications where safe and appropriate, advise patients to avoid activities that produce chest muscle overuse, and provide reassurance.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analgesics / therapeutic use
  • Chest Pain / drug therapy
  • Chest Pain / etiology
  • Child
  • Electrocardiography
  • Humans
  • Physical Examination
  • Risk Factors
  • Thorax / anatomy & histology
  • Tietze's Syndrome / diagnosis*
  • Tietze's Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Tietze's Syndrome / therapy*
  • Young Adult


  • Analgesics