Costochondritis: Symptoms & Signs

Medically Reviewed on 3/16/2021

Costochondritis is a localized inflammation of the area where the rib bones attach to the cartilage of the breastbone (sternum).

Signs and symptoms of costochondritis include localized chest pain and tenderness that is worsened when the area is felt. The pain may be sharp or aching. Deep breathing, coughing, and movement may all worsen the pain.

Causes of costochondritis

In most cases, the underlying cause of the inflammation is unknown. In other cases, the inflammation may be related to bacterial or viral infections, fibromyalgia, reactive arthritis, or overuse injury. Pregnancy also may lead to costochondritis in some women due to stretching of the rib cage. Some people with the condition describe a recent illness with excessive coughing or physical exertion.

Other costochondritis symptoms and signs

  • Localized Chest Pain
  • Pain That Worsens with Coughing, Deep Breathing, or Movement
  • Sharp or Aching Pain
  • Tenderness That Worsens When Touching the Area


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Jameson, J. Larry, et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 20th Ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Education, 2018.