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Table of Contents

Costochondritis is an inflammation of the junctions where the upper ribs join with the cartilage that holds them to the breastbone or sternum. It is, in fact, an inflammation of the connective tissue between the breastbone and the ribs.

Medications

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications

Costochondritis responds well to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve).

Steroid medications 

The patient may also be given a local anesthetic and steroid injection in the area that is tender, if normal activities become very painful and the pain does not respond to medications.

Antibiotics

Infectious costochondritis should be treated initially with IV antibiotics. The antibiotic therapy should be administered either by mouth or IV for another 2-3 weeks for the complete recovery.

Antidepressants

Antidepressants, specifically a category of medicines called tricyclic antidepressants, should be given if the pain is making it difficult to sleep at night.

Muscle relaxants

It is proven that muscle relaxants can also help ease the pain.

Surgery

Surgical removal of the sore cartilage may be required if there is no response to medical therapy. A doctor should refer a patient to a surgeon for a consultation should this option be considered necessary.

Self-Care Tips

For many patients, it can be frustrating to know that there's little that a doctor can do to treat their costochondritis related pain. To help relieve the pain caused by costochondritis, a patient should try to [3]:

  • Rest more and avoid activities that make pain worse.
  • Exercise more. Although it may seem contradictory to rest, it is proven that gentle exercises, such as walking or swimming, can improve your mood and keep your body healthy.  
  • Usage of a heating pad. A heating pad should be applied to the painful area several times a day.

Prognosis and Prevention

The prognosis for patients with costochondritis is excellent. After 1 year, about half of the patients may still have some discomfort while approximately one third report tenderness with palpation. Since inflammatory costochondritis has no definite cause, there is no good way to prevent it.