Costochondritis Symptoms: Watch Out for These Signs

girl having a chest pain

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  • Chest pain, especially in adults, can be a potential sign of a heart problem. Tests may be needed to rule out heart disease or heart attack, or to truly confirm if it is costochondritis
  • Oftentimes, adults who experience chest pain are tested for heart disease before being examined for costochondritis

Considering that costochondritis is brought on by an inflammation in an area of the upper ribs, it should come as no surprise that the primary symptom of this condition is pain. But what exactly does it feel like, where does it often occur and how do you know it’s not a sign of another health problem? Keep reading to learn more about the signs of costochondritis.

Chest Pain: The Hallmark Symptom of Costochondritis

The inflammation that leads to costochondritis affects the junction where the upper ribs meet with the cartilage that attaches them to the sternum or breastbone. This area is called the sternocostal joint or costosternal articulation.1 As a result of the inflammation, localized chest pain is the primary sign of this condition. It’s the same sensation you feel when you push on the cartilage at the front of your ribcage.2

Costochondritis pain can vary in severity: It can be very mild or intensely debilitating. In mild cases, the pain only makes the chest feel tender to touch, or you may experience some sensation when pressure is placed on the area of your chest cartilage. Movement and deep breathing, as well as coughing,3 may cause the pain to increase, while rest and quiet breathing may reduce it. Applying pressure on the area, such as hugging someone or wearing a seatbelt,4 may also exacerbate the pain.

If severe, however, costochondritis can send shooting pains down your limbs.5 And while usually localized on the front of the chest, it may also radiate to the abdomen, back or shoulders.  The pain is described as sharp, aching or as if intense pressure is being exerted on your chest.

What’s more, it often occurs on only one side of the chest, particularly the left — however, there are cases when both sides become affected at the same time.6

What Sets Costochondritis Apart from Tietze Syndrome?

Oftentimes, the term costochondritis and Tietze syndrome are used synonymously, but take note that these are two different conditions. While the latter also involves inflammation of the costochondral cartilages, it often comes with swelling — something that is not characteristic to costochondritis.

What’s more, Tietze syndrome can lead to other signs and symptoms like tenderness, redness and warmth.7 It’s also less common than costochondritis. Lastly, these two conditions commonly affect different age groups, with costochondritis affecting adults 40 years old and over, and Tietze syndrome appearing in people younger than age 40.8

If You Experience Persistent Chest Pain, Seek a Physician Immediately

Chest pain is never a good sign, which is why it’s always a good idea to have it checked. This is because chest pain, especially in adults, can be a potential sign of a heart problem. Tests may be needed to rule out heart disease or heart attack, or to truly confirm if it is costochondritis. Oftentimes, adults who experience chest pain are tested for heart disease before being examined for costochondritis.

Costochondritis often goes away on its own a few after its onset. However, there are cases that may need treatment. In certain instances, the condition can last for months. It may also relapse.

MORE ABOUT COSTOCHONDRITIS

Costochondritis: Introduction

What Is Costochondritis?

Costochondritis Symptoms

Costochondritis Causes

Costochondritis Treatment

Costochondritis Prevention

Costochondritis Diet

Costochondritis FAQ


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