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Costochondritis (rib pain)

Patient information A-Z

What is costochondritis?

Costochondritis is one of the more common causes of breast pain from the chest wall. The tenderness is due to inflammation of one of the underlying joints of the rib cage called costochondral junctions.

The rib cage is made from a mixture of bone and cartilage; at the point where the bone becomes cartilage there are some tiny joints. These joints become inflamed and cause breast pain.

Pain from the chest wall is often made worse when the rib cage is squashed, for example at night when lying on the affected areas, wearing a seat belt, or when being hugged.

How long will it last?

Costochondritis can last for many months. The cause is largely unknown although coughing and trauma can trigger the condition.

How is it treated?

Treatment is targeted according to symptoms. Some suggestions are:

  • wear a lightweight bra at night
  • deep breathing exercises – a healthcare professional will provide you with information
  • simple pain relief such as paracetamol, asprin or ibuprofen at night time (with food)
  • avoid unnecessary exercise or activities

If these measures do not improve the symptoms, your GP may refer you back to clinic for pain relief treatments such as:

  • referral to the pain team
  • local steroid and anaesthetic injections into the joints

If your symptoms deteriorate or you notice new changes, you should seek further medical advice. Please call the Breast Unit on 01223 586960.

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Contact us

Cambridge University Hospitals
NHS Foundation Trust
Hills Road, Cambridge

Telephone +44 (0)1223 245151