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Costochondritis (Tietze's Syndrome) Print E-mail

Dr. Kennedy Costochondritis is a condition which presents with chest pain due to inflammation of the cartilage and bones in the chest wall. Also called Tietze's syndrome (when the pain is accompanied by redness and or swelling in the areas most tender). Costochondritis is caused by inflammation at the junction of the rib bone and sternum (breastbone). At this juncture, there is cartilage joining these bones and it is this cartilage which becomes irritated and inflamed. Most patients with costochondritis experience pain over the front of the upper chest in the area of the sternum. Costochondritis can be quite painful. This condition is thought to be most commonly due to repetitive microtrauma, or overuse. This means that activities result in repeated damage to the cartilage of the chest wall leading to inflammation. Costochondritis pain is worsened by activity or exercise, even by taking a deep breath. Any activity which stretches the inflamed cartilage can cause significant pain. Even touching the area involved can be extremely painful. Because of the many nerves that branch away from the chest, pain may be "referred," i.e.experienced in other locations such as the shoulder or arms as well. When called Tietze's Syndrome, the pain from costochondritis is accompanied by redness and or swelling in the areas most tender. Because it is not life threatening, costochondritis should only be diagnosed after excluding other more serious problems such as heart disease.

Young adults between 20 and 40 years old are the most commonly affected. Costochondritis is also seen in athletes due to overuse injury especially, it is said, not uncommonly in competitive rowers. Costochondritis can also be the result from a single traumatic injury. For example, an encounter with a steering wheel in a car accident can cause costochondritis by injuring the ribs and cartilage on the front of the chest. Viral infections, usually upper respiratory infections, have also been associated with costochondritis.

The information in this article is not meant to be medical advice.�Treatment for a medical condition should come at the recommendation of your personal physician.

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