Updated: Feb 19, 2020
  • Author: Lynn K Flowers, MD, MHA, ABAARM, FACEP; Chief Editor: Barry E Brenner, MD, PhD, FACEP  more...
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Practice Essentials

Costochondritis is inflammation of the costal cartilage at the articulation of the ribs and sternum. [1] It is an important consideration in the differential diagnosis of chest pain, as in contrast to myocardial ischemia or infarction, it is a benign disorder. [2, 3]  Although the term costochondritis often is used interchangeably with fibrositis and Tietze syndrome, these are distinct diagnoses. Reassurance and pain control are the principal objectives of emergency care; NSAIDs may be useful.

For discussion of costochondritis in children, see Pediatric Costochondritis. For patient education information, see What Is Costochondritis?



Costochondritis is an inflammatory process of the costochondral or costosternal joints that causes localized pain and tenderness. Any of the 7 costochondral junctions may be affected, and more than 1 site is affected in 90% of cases. The second to fifth costochondral junctions most commonly are involved.




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The exact prevalence of a musculoskeletal etiology for chest pain is not known, although overall prevalence of a musculoskeletal etiology for chest pain was approximately 10% in one study. In a 1994 emergency department study, 30% of patients with chest pain had costochondritis. [3]


The condition's course generally is self-limited, but symptoms often recur or persist.


In Disla's costochondritis study, women comprised 69% of patients with costochondritis versus 31% in the control group. [3]