What Causes Costochondritis? Learn the Different Risk Factors

chest pain attack

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  • The most common cause of costochondritis is physical exertion. Another common cause is trauma or injury to the chest
  • The pain this condition brings is triggered by inflammation but there’s not just one cause of inflammation that may affect the sternocostal joint or costosternal articulation. Here are some of the potential causes of this condition

Costochondritis, a common cause of chest pain in adults, children and adolescents alike, is a benign condition that often resolves on its own. But what exactly causes it? Basically, the pain this condition brings is triggered by inflammation, which is the natural response of the body to irritation, infection or injury.

However, the specific underlying cause of the inflammation is virtually unknown. Perhaps this is because there’s not just one cause of inflammation that may affect the sternocostal joint or costosternal articulation. Here are some of the potential causes of this condition.

Physical Strain and Trauma May Trigger Costochondritis

The most common cause of costochondritis is physical exertion. For example, repeated or strenuous exercise or a sudden movement that you’re not used to doing, such as when lifting or moving heavy furniture, may prompt physical strain and inflame the sternocostal joint. Overusing the arms, such as during rigorous workouts, may also trigger it.12

Another common cause is trauma or injury to the chest. This may be in the form of a blunt impact, like from a car accident, or fall from a certain height. Severe coughing, which can be hard on the chest, may also lead to this condition.3 Typical wear-and-tear may also lead to costochondritis. Take note that your chest moves in and out at least 20 to 30 times per minute, and overtime, this can cause discomfort in the joints.4

Infections and Other Illnesses May Also Cause Costochondritis

In some cases, costochondritis may be linked to another health condition. For example, chest infections may trigger inflammation, and may come in three types, namely:

Bacterial infection: This is often seen in people who used IV drugs or have had any type of surgery done on their upper chest. This is because surgery makes the cartilage more prone to infection, due to the reduced blood flow in an area that's been operated on. Bacterial infections like syphilis and tuberculosis are also known culprits.

Viral infections: Inflammation brought on by respiratory tract infections or the strain caused by excessive coughing may prompt costochondritis.

Fungal infections: Albeit rare, these may also lead to costochondritis. One example is aspergillosis.

Furthermore, other health problems like ankylosing spondylitis, arthritis or rheumatoid arthritis may also cause costochondritis. The growth of tumors, whether cancerous or noncancerous, may also prompt inflammation. The cancer may have come from another nearby part of the body, such as the lung, breast or thyroid.5

Costochondritis May Also Be Triggered by Pregnancy

In women, pregnancy is a risk factor of costochondritis, especially during the second and last trimester. This is because this period is when the baby grows and the body expands, including the rib cage. In many pregnant women with costochondritis, the pain can become more intense when taking a deep breath.

Because of the delicate nature of their condition, pregnant women should be careful when it comes to addressing their costochondritis pain. Using a pregnancy pillow, which lifts and supports the stomach while the woman is lying down, may help take some stress off the rib cage. Wearing a support brace while standing can also help distribute the weight from the stomach region while standing, thus helping with posture and decreasing pressure on the rib cage.6

MORE ABOUT COSTOCHONDRITIS

Costochondritis: Introduction

What Is Costochondritis?

Costochondritis Symptoms

Costochondritis Causes

Costochondritis Treatment

Costochondritis Prevention

Costochondritis Diet

Costochondritis FAQ


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