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What is Chest Inflammation?

By Deneatra Harmon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Chest inflammation, also known as costochondritis, causes tenderness and pain in the area of the cartilage that connects the ribs to the breastbone. Pain is the main symptom of costochondritis, and it varies based on movement. Injury and illness commonly cause the disorder. Doctors conduct physical exams to diagnose this condition. Specific pain relievers and self-care at home generally eases chest wall inflammation.

Costochondritis, or chest inflammation, starts with pain in the chest wall or breastbone area that worsens when sitting or lying down. Pain usually strikes in the upper breastbone and lower rib area or between the breast and upper abdomen. Sometimes the intensity of the pain may be so sharp that the patient may think he is having a heart attack. Pain from costochondritis may also result in chest swelling and redness, which doctors refer to as Tietze’s syndrome.

Common symptoms of costochondritis include varying levels of pain. Along with a dull or sharp pain, tenderness in the chest area indicates the problem. While pain can originate from either side of the chest, it often occurs to the left of the breastbone. Pain while coughing, breathing, or engaging in any physical activities may also indicate chest inflammation.

According to medical sources, some causes of costochondritis may be undetermined, while health and physical activities are usually culprits in other cases. For instance, injuries to the chest from playing sports or engaging in rigorous exercise sometimes cause chest wall inflammation. Upper respiratory infections such as the common cold may also cause chest infection. Some people may experience recurring bouts of chest wall inflammation, which indicate the possibility of other medical conditions. Fibromyalgia symptoms, for example, include tenderness and pain in the chest area.

To diagnose chest inflammation, the doctor inquires about symptoms and conducts a physical exam. During the exam, the doctor checks for swelling or tenderness along the breastbone. The doctor may also arrange for imaging tests or chest X-rays to rule out other problems, such as heart or lung disease, since these medical conditions share similar symptoms. Generally, chest inflammation affects adults over age 40, but it can also develop in babies and children.

Once the doctor confirms the diagnosis, she may prescribe muscle relaxants to ease costochondritis pain or recommend over-the-counter, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like naproxen or ibuprofen. The patient may also receive antidepressants if the pain keeps him awake at night, and cortisone injections may be administered if severe pain persists. As for home care, a heating pad on the low setting and resting helps to ease the pain. Chest inflammation pain disappears anywhere from a few days to several months, depending on the patient and the treatment methods.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By Realited — On Jan 19, 2014

I think this is just another illness that might not ever be fully understood. But it is comforting to know that there are meds for this kind of thing.

By Grinderry — On Jan 19, 2014

My question is, wouldn't there be a way to reduce or remove the problem by using the same methodologies when replacing cartilage in a human body? Such as when a sports player suffers from missing cartilage between two joints. Makes you wonder then if this illness cannot be alleviated to some extent with such a procedure.

By Contentum — On Jan 18, 2014
I had a friend who suffered from this but didn't know he had it. This isn't something you come across regularly and it seems that, unless you know this exists, you might not ever seek treatment for it.
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