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Costochondritis Treatments: Chest Pain Relief

Sternum and costal joints from Gray's Anatomy

Sternum and costal joints from Gray's Anatomy

What Is Costochondritis?

Costochondritis (costo) is a painful inflammatory condition in which the cartilage and area around the rib cage and sternum is swollen and sore.

It can be a frightening pain—especially when it's on the heart side of the breast bone.

Very little research, other than to report case studies, has been done to examine costochondritis and rib cage pain.[1,2]

Doctors don't understand the causes, which means they can't treat the underlying cause of the condition. The only thing they can treat is the symptoms.

What Does the Pain Feel Like?

There are two main types of costochondritis pain.

In the background, there may be a dull, throbbing ache around your breast bone and a constant low-level rib cage pain. As if there is a tight band around your chest and back.

Certain movements, including deep breaths, coughing and laughing, cause an acute, dreadful sternum pain—like a knife is twisted, or an ice pick is driven into beast bone.

Pressing on and around the sternum, where the inflammation is centered, results in sharp, stabbing pain.

Doctors will run a host of other tests and X-rays to rule out heart disease.

Tietze's syndrome is similar to costochondritis; however, Tietze's syndrome pain also shoots into the shoulder and arm, and the soft tissue of the chest around the breast bone is noticeably swollen.

Tough at School and Work

I've had costo since a combined bout of bronchitis and shingles at age 14.

Triggered by the viral infections, it lingered for many years. I had to stop playing musical instruments and tennis, and struggled through the later years at school, university and work.

Later, rheumatologists and neurologists have suggested that the rib cage pain may be a symptom of fibromyalgia.

Most recently, it's been discovered that I have had spondyloarthritis since I was a teenager, and costochondritis is a common symptom.

These days, my symptoms are mostly manageable, and I'm regaining my rusty piano skills. If I forget to stretch or catch a viral illness, it still flares.

Carrying and setting up a classroom of laptops - a costo flare waiting to happen!

Carrying and setting up a classroom of laptops - a costo flare waiting to happen!

What Causes Costochondritis?

Doctors don't know the causes of this debilitating sternum pain. Some people develop it after a virus, such as bronchitis, pneumonia, shingles or chicken pox.

Injuries, surgery, or repeated strain on the chest wall, by unsafe movements, poor posture or even strong coughing can cause costochondritis symptoms.

It may also be caused by another inflammatory condition, such as arthritis especially ankylosing spondylitis and psoriatic arthritis.

Costochondritis, or non-specific chest wall pain, can affect children and adults, although women are more than twice as likely to develop it than men.

Athletes such as baseball players, golfers and rowers are more prone to develop costochondritis symptoms.

Costochondritis Pain Relief

Doctors normally prescribe NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), such as ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve), or anti-inflammatory gels containing diclofenac (Voltaren).

Normal over-the-counter analgesics such as paracetamol (Tylenol) and sometimes anesthetic patches (Lidoderm) are also often used to relieve chest wall pain.

For persistent cases, stronger anti-inflammatory medications are prescribed. These affect the digestive system and must be taken on a full stomach. There are a number of serious side effects with prolonged anti-inflammatory use.

Local steroid or anesthetic injections are used when NSAID medications don't work.

Cortisone of biologics like sulfasalazine may be used when the underlying problem is arthritis.

When all treatments fail, the inflamed cartilage may be removed in surgery.

Costochondritis symptoms may go away quickly or may last for months or years, with chest wall pain appearing and disappearing randomly.

Pain killers, used to treat costochondritis symptoms and other inflammatory conditions.

Pain killers, used to treat costochondritis symptoms and other inflammatory conditions.

Home Remedies for Pain Relief

Heat and/or Ice

Use heat packs or ice packs on the chest and back to reduce the stabbing breast bone pain, and relax the muscles around the chest wall and shoulders.

Heat packs, saunas and warm baths work very well for my sternum pain, anything cold makes my symptoms worse.

Tip: make your own microwaveable heatpack out of 100% cotton material filled with whole wheat or brown rice.

Menthol Sports Rubs

Use mentholated heat rubs (Tiger Balm, Deep Heat, Icy Hot), or even a chest rub with menthol (Vicks VapoRub), to warm and relax the muscles, improve blood flow to the area, and speed the healing process.


Most costo sufferers don't benefit from massage - it's too painful. I find light massage good when the sternum pain is not acute, as it helps blood flow and muscle relaxation.

I've found a massage oil with arnica helps prevent the bruised feeling from getting too bad after a massage.

Capsaicin Plasters

Using patches infused with the heat compound from hot chili peppers, capsaicin, can improve blood flow.

Although, the delicate skin in the chest area may react badly to the adhesive and/or capsaicin.


Some people find relief, as the needles increase blood flow to the surrounding areas. However, clinical studies are inconclusive.

Cough Medicine

A cough suppressant (antitussive) is useful when chest wall pain develops from a viral infection or strong, persistent coughing. Please check with your doctor before using any type of cough medicine.

Important: If the underlying cause is spondyloarthritis, it is recommended NOT to see a chiropractor. Manipulating the bones can cause further injury.

Fitness equipment, much of which is not good for costo!

Fitness equipment, much of which is not good for costo!

Movement and Fitness During and After Costochondritis

When movement causes pain spikes, you stiffen your posture, lock muscles, and round shoulders to protect the painful area - your chest. Unfortunately, poor rigid posture can make a flare last longer, and prevent healing.

Gentle stretching has been shown in several cases to help with recovery from costochondritis[3].

Avoid contact sports and any strenuous activities that use the upper body, such as tennis, golf, baseball, rowing or lifting weights at the gym while you are healing.

Other activities I've found that can cause extreme pain include:

  • gardening
  • driving vehicles without power steering
  • ironing
  • carrying heavy shopping bags
  • kneading bread or pasta, chopping vegetables or stirring for a long time
  • yoga
  • tai chi with hands held far from my body
  • swimming

Avoid anything that overly strains the chest muscles.

Avoiding Sternum Pain

  • Ask for help when carrying or lifting.
  • Keep heavier items that you use daily at hip height.
  • Lighten your bag as much as possible.
  • Use a backpack, not a side-bag - this sits evenly on your back and chest.
  • Avoid heavy, hinged doors or open them with your legs to avoid straining your chest muscles.

Stretches for Costochondritis

During a costochondritis or Tietze syndrome flare, stretches are better than exercises to help reduce pain, increase mobility and encourage healing.

  • Gently shrug and rotate your shoulders to maintain mobility. Move very slowly and carefully.
  • Gently stretch your arms back against a door frame. Stop the stretch before it hurts.

    Gentle chest opening stretches relax the muscles around your sternum and ribcage, and allow better blood flow.
  • Go for short walks, but nothing too strenuous.

    Breathing more evenly and naturally while walking can help relax the chest muscles and improve blood flow to the inflamed areas.

Exercises to Prevent It

Exercises that improve or maintain good posture, and strengthen your back and core muscles will help prevent costochondritis

  • A fit ball is a great tool for developing core muscles, improving posture while sitting, and lying over to open and stretch your chest muscles.
  • A Pilates foam roller can be a great tool to help with chest stretches and posture correction.

Always use good posture when carrying or lifting.

The Alexander technique helps prevent chest wall pain, back and sciatic pain caused by poor posture.

Lifestyle Modifications to Reduce Chest Pain

Stress management techniques—meditation, progressive relaxation, journaling, mindfulness, a relaxing hobby, cognitive therapy and even personal organization techniques help you manage the pain, decrease anxiety and deal with depression (common when suffering from a chronic pain condition).

During a flare, avoid tight clothing—compressing corsets, tight shirts and even underwire bras can put additional pressure on the sensitive and inflamed joints between the ribs and the sternum.

An ergonomic desk layout encourages good posture. Use a separate keyboard and mouse if you are using a laptop, and raise monitors to eye height.

Keyboard shortcuts reduce mouse work - I find reaching for and using the mouse painful during a costo flare.

Organize your home and workplace to minimize reaching, lifting and carrying:

  • Leave oft-used heavy kitchen appliances on the bench during a flare.
  • Use a clothes horse instead of an overhead clothesline to dry the washing.
  • Keep heavy books and office materials at bench height.
My setup when I was a technical writer: monitors at eye height, separate mouse and split keyboard to keep my chest open.

My setup when I was a technical writer: monitors at eye height, separate mouse and split keyboard to keep my chest open.

Limes are high in Vitamin C, a natural anti-inflammatory

Limes are high in Vitamin C, a natural anti-inflammatory

Eat Healthily and Move Regularly

Eat healthily, with an adequate intake of all vitamins and minerals, and get enough exercise. This will lower the risk of catching viral illnesses and speed up the body's healing processes.

A diet with natural anti-inflammatory foods and spices may help reduce and prevent pain.

Low vitamin D levels have been linked to chronic pain may increase the risk of costochondritis[4] - ask your doctor to test your levels.

Losing weight can help reduce the severity of sternum pain in costochondritis, especially in women. It's harder to lose weight when in chronic pain, so stay away from people who make you feel bad for being ill.

How to Sleep With the Pain

When my costo flares, the pain from laying on my side can cause serious insomnia.

Keeping my chest open is important, so I hug a long, thick, fluffy pillow. This stops my shoulders from rounding and compressing the area around the sternum.

Develop a good sleep routine to reduce pain caused by tension and insomnia.

  1. Switch off TVs and computers a few hours before bed.
  2. Take a bath with Epsom salts.
  3. Gently stretch your shoulders and chest.
  4. Give yourself a light shoulder and neck massage, or use a heat pack.
  5. Wind down with soft music or a book.

These will relax your mind, neck, back, chest and shoulder muscles - less pain and stress as you fall asleep.

What Has Helped You?

How did you develop costochondritis?

What treatments have helped you the most?

Let us know in the comments below!


  1. PubMed search for costochondritis, Tietze's syndrome, and costal chondritis, performed July 2012.
  2. "Musculoskeletal causes of chest pain," S. Jensen, Australian Family Physician, September 2001, 30(9):834-9.
  3. "Stretching exercises for costochondritis pain," G. Rovetta,, Giornale Italiano di Medecina del Lavoro ed Ergonomia, April 2009, 31(2):169-71.
  4. "Chest Pain and Costochondritis Associated with Vitamin D Deficiency: A Report of Two Cases," R.C. Oh,, Case Reports in Medicine, 2012:375730.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


Ismahan on December 16, 2017:

I have costochondritis.and the pain is getting better. But as time goes by I find myself not sleeping enough waking up every hour or two. I sleep upright and I feel my body just wants me to lie on my sides.and every time I try nothing bad happens I just tense up and get scared that it's gonna flare up

Taimoor on October 03, 2017:

i m also suffering from this from last 4 to 5 months. It get worse only once at the start first day of this pain

But i m suffering in this disease

Kindly tell me what i do to cure this disease pleaese

I am waiting for your reply thanks

Angie vela on July 28, 2017:

I was told by a heart Dr an the er I have this

Bixam Boda on July 10, 2017:

Hi Kymberly,

I am glad that I found this article after so many searches and long time. Its been more than two years, I am suffering from this kind of pain, Left side on my chest from top third rib, I get pain when I tight my chest, stretch my chest ( opening my both hand back) and taking deep breath and it gets worse when I move my upper body left or right ( if I swing left and right it pains more worse). I went to couple different doctors for their suggestions and treatment opinions from doctors they not even diagnosed but they suspected muscle catch and they say automatically goes. From then I started searching in Internet for solution for this kind of issues. I tried to rub using my fingers and if I put hot water bottle I get relief till now I am managing like this. But I want complete cure, if you can suggest best medicine which should not give side effects or any natural medicine or things I can do to cure this pain completely by the way I am from India, Hyderabad, 33 years age, height 5.8 and weight 66 Kgs. I am expecting reply from you... very much appreciated for your long article its helping so many people outside. Thank you so much.


Bixam Boda

Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on June 14, 2017:

Hi Frank,

Yes, it most certainly causes pain when laughing and taking deep breaths, and depending on how high up the inflammation is, turning your head would also cause pain. I had to stop playing wind instruments in high school because of the costo - it's a horrid thing. Try some of the stretches and lifestyle modifications, and let me know what works. Good luck!


Frank on June 10, 2017:

Hello there,

I been dealing with this for quiet sometime now. I believe i got the condition after doing a bench workout at the gym. I got this sudden rush in the middle of my chest which felt like a burning sensation and made me panic.

I developed anxiety from this because i thought it was something else especially because its in the center of the chest.

Recently i have been deaing with this again. And my question to you is, can this cause pain when laughing, turning my head, and when taking deep breaths.

This is really annoying and messes with your mind, what a horrible condition.

Kaye Brittingham on May 24, 2017:


JeniK on April 30, 2017:

Thank you for this. I was diagnosed with this in 2003 when I was 30. When it began I was in so much pain I had to have help to dress myself. After taking prescription anti-inflammatories for about 6 months, it was improved (but not gone) and the doctor said no more could be done and it would eventually go away on its own. It actually has gotten better over the years, or I have gotten used to it. I can even forget about it for long stretches of time, but it can still flare up and the soreness lasts for days or weeks. I wish the doctors could be more helpful. This is a frustrating condition! I will try the exercises. Thanks!

Kelsey on April 25, 2017:

Thank you. I thought I was the only one not being able to play clarinet as much after being diagnosed with costochondritis and fibromyalgia 4 years ago. I have much chest pain after practicing. The other information is summarized well and not too brief like other sites. Thanks again.

Kate-jadesmith on February 17, 2017:

Hey Kym, thank you for the advice.

I will be back in my room tonight so I should be ok and shopping surprisingly didn't set the costo off which I was relieved at.

My stepbrother is only ten and doesn't come shopping with us because he spends that time with my younger cousin in the park where we live. He isn't always here this long but right now it is a holiday for his school and my older brother also lives at home because his ex was abusive and he's trying to find a place to live.

I found that hugging a pillow does prevent a flare during the night so thank you for that.


Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on February 16, 2017:

Hi Kate,

Firstly *hugs* - you are juggling a lot of stressful things there!

You are right, anxiety and stress makes costo so much worse. Getting your stress levels down with something like meditation, tai chi, yoga, or such, normally helps enormously with a flare. Even simply taking a quiet break, lying on a heat pack with another on my chest, and focusing on my breathing helps me control stress and anxiety to an extent.

Sleeping on the couch won't help: you don't have so much room, the body support is all wrong, and you can't easily hug a pillow to keep your chest open while sleeping (the thing that helps me the most). Is there some way you can find bed space or a mattress you can sleep on?

To deal with shopping, I lift smaller bags or loads, keeping them close to my body (no outstretched arms), and no twisting. If you can pack things into a backpack while it's on a bench, and then slip your arms into both straps, I find this helps a lot (Germany has packing 'desks' which make this easier). I have to ask my partner for help with the heavier stuff like cat litter - can you ask your stepbrother to help more?

Recently, I've found relief with a couple of tennis balls in a stocking, and used them against a wall to massage the tension around my shoulder blades. Also a light massage on the chest, carefully if I use tiger balm, helps.

Mine gets a lot worse when I sit a lot at the computer (arms are always in front of me, and making fine, repetitive movements), especially as I need to keep my legs raised for other problems and therefore use the computer on my lap on the couch. Changing positions regularly, moving around and stretching is crucial. Arm, upper back and neck stretches are important, both lengthening and twisting stretches, but do this very slowly and carefully.

Please let me know how you get one - costo is a nasty beast.


Kate-jadesmith on February 15, 2017:

I was diagnosed with Costo yesterday after two - three weeks of pain. It started after a cold and sickness bug that took a few days to go away. I'm having trouble sleeping with the pain and ibuprofen hasn't helped even though I have been talking it fr atleast a week and a half.

I'm worried that it will cause issues in my day to day college life I have to climb three flights of stairs to get to my classrooms and I also have to be standing a lot of the day.

My mum is disabled and I help her with shopping as she can't do it alone so I have to help her but I'm worried that the heavy lifting will cause a flare in the pain. How can I ease the pain without dosing myself with ibuprofen constantly.

I also have issues with stress and was diagnosed with anxiety and depression last march and took an overdose in July. I have frequent anxiety attacks which causes the pain to become excruciating. I get infections very easily as I have younger siblings and am at college. I fear that it will not go away

I find it difficult to sleep and I can't get comfortable, which isn't helped by the fact that when my stepbrother stays (like he is now) I sleep in the lounge on the sofa.

What do I do?

GraceY on February 05, 2017:

soft ice packs, heating pad. A medication called Neurontin. Streches help as well.

annie on January 20, 2017:

This info was awesome!. I give it a 5 at the begging. That window for scoring came up before I could even read or let alone score it. I could not get rid of it. This should have been a 10. Sorry!

Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on January 05, 2017:

Hi Kristy,

For me, heat, stretching, fixing posture, changing seating positions, sleeping while hugging a pillow to keep chest open, and massage all help, and when it's particularly bad, then ibuprofen. If you can find out the underlying reason, you may be able to find something else that helps. Mine is arthritis related (spondyloarthritis), so it's closely tied to the inflammation levels in my body, which is why the ibuprofen can help. I'm hoping mine won't flare, because I've had to shovel snow the last few days! Let me know what other things help you - best of luck and health!

Kristy on January 02, 2017:

Hi! I'm 16 and have had costochondritis for 2 and a half years. It started with random sharp pains that were localized on my sternumind, but the pain has now traveled to my entire rib cage, sternum, and my chest up to my clavicle and I have moderate/severe sharp and dull pain everyday. I also found out that I am allergic to certain artificial sweeteners and do food dyes and a part of my allergic reaction is a worsened flare up ofor my costochondritis pain that can last up to 2-3 weeks. I've found that heat and stretching have helped a bit and I've been told that I should start massaging my chest to desensitize it because the pain has gotten so bad. Any other tips would be appreciated and I wish nothing but good health for all of you!

Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on October 01, 2016:

Hi Jaimilyn, I'm sorry you're going through a flare at the moment - I hope the stretches help!

I have used (elbow-length) crutches with a costo flare, as I've sprained my ankle a number of times. They don't make things easier, and can easily make a flare worse. An electric wheelchair would not stress the chest and would definitely help with mobility, but I suspect a manual one would worsen the costo, unless you could get a friend or family member to wheel you around.

Best wishes, and I hope you get through this flare soon!


jaimilyn on September 30, 2016:

Hi, thanks for this resource! I am going through my worst ever costochondritis flare and happened across you on a Google search.

I've been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia+Chronic Fatigue since 1999 and Costochondritis since 2001. Costo is normally just a background pain to the rest of the fibro issues, but thanks to a whole lot of stress at work that I'm terrible at managing, I overdid myself into an epic flare, and have been either in bed or various doctors offices for a week now.

Long story short, I wanted to know if anyone has used any mobility devices with costochondritis? I'm so fatigued at the moment that walking across the room makes me tired and need to sit down, or better yet lie down. But, being cooped up and miserable in my house is contributing to my depression/anxiety. I thought about a cane, but that seems like using it would irritate my ribs. I also thought about a wheelchair, but not sure if that would be comfortable either.

Anyway, thanks for the tips on getting through a flare, gentle stretching is one of the things I haven't tried yet, so that's at least something to try! It's also comforting to know that there's other people with the same symptoms and I'm not the only one with doctors who shrug and say there's nothing else they can do to help (not that I want anyone else in pain!!).

Best flare-free wishes to all :)

Tawny on August 30, 2016:

Hi Garnett,

I did cortisone injections about 2 years into my treatment. In my case, the pain worsened for about a week and then went back to the normal pain. My doctor said they could try again to see if they could get the right area 1 more time and I declined. I have heard they work for some costo patients for short term relief but only if they hit the exact spot. It is pretty dangerous for them to be poking around the left side of my chest so it wasn't worth the risk in my opinion for them to try again. Hope this helps!

Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on August 25, 2016:

Hi Garnett, I think it's rarely done because the sternum/rib area is larger than say a knee or shoulder. Doctors have never even offered that option to me. Have you tried it?

Garnett Livinston on August 22, 2016:

I didnt see anyone here mention trying cortisone injection?

Tawny on July 07, 2016:

Thank you for writing this great article. I have had Costo for 8 very long years, and have pretty much come to terms with the fact that it may not go away in my case. The pain level has been the same since the day it appeared until now. Initially, I stopped all forms of exercise for 2-3 years, as the doctors initially ruled out costo due to meds and injections not working. It wasn't until years later that we realized this pain and symptoms could not be anything else. Since I do not want to be on medication for a prolonged period of time, I have learned to simply live with the pain. I pretty much do everything that costo patients are not supposed to do, because I realized that quality of life was more important.

I box and do yoga 4-5 times a week. Believe it or not, yoga has actually helped with my pain, as this has helped with my posture tremendously, not to mention it is a great addition to my boxing classes which keeps my chest area tight. The other things that help are sleeping on my back at night, cannabis oils as a topical solution over the inflamed area, short sessions in a hot bath or jacuzzi, vicodin when it gets really bad solely for the pain (not to help with the inflammation), and a great family support system. Hope this helps, and thanks again for the article!

Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on June 24, 2016:

Lanie, can you see a doctor to rule out other causes? I've found massaging with a tennis ball in a stocking against a wall helpful - between shoulders, on top of shoulders and top of chest. Also physiotherapy and massage by a physiotherapist has helped with sharp, short term flares. Good luck!

Lanie on June 23, 2016:

I just started having chest pains that are real sharp! They are freaking me out! Can you help me.. Stretching helps relieve the pain, but I'm still worried.. This has been going on since Mother's Day

Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on May 29, 2016:

Hi Lina, I'm sorry you have got this! For me, it takes only a few doses to notice a difference. I can't take anti-inflammatories for long periods though, so have to rely on non-medication forms of therapy to make it stay away. If it flares though, I do take one or two ibuprofen (the max I'm allowed), use heat packs as often as possible, and then work on relaxation (back/shoulder/neck massage), better posture, and stretching. Good luck, and let me know how you go!

Lina Kerr on May 27, 2016:

I was just diagnosed with costochondritis and my doctor wants me to be on anti inflammatory for a moths. Do you know how long it will take for anti inflammatories to start working?

shameika on April 27, 2016:

Thank you Kym. This blog has been tremendously helpful!!

Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on April 27, 2016:

Hi Shameika and sorry that you have costo - it's a nasty illness. I'm currently dealing with a flare too. Applying heat packs front and back, and massaging my back/shoulders with tennis balls is getting me through, mostly.

My muscles, on the spine side of the shoulder blades and around to the top of the shoulder blades all across the upper back, often cramp and get really solid during a costo flare. The pain can spike through from the front to the back, or the back to the front. From what the rheumy and physiotherapists have said, the inflammation upsets the muscles all around the entire rib cage, front and back. It's not just the sternum that's affected. Back pain with costo is not at all unusual.

I rarely get nipple pain - usually only when I've been wearing a bra. When the costo pain is bad, I need to avoid the compression a bra puts on my ribs, and the extra pressure from an underwire is terrible. No bra is better for me. I'm also nearly a G cup, and these days, only wear a bra when I have to be active or outside. Summer is harder, because I can't hide under a heavy winter coat.

Breast reductions have quite good results for back pain according to this study:, but in rare cases it may actually cause costochondritis (surgery is trauma to the chest wall area), although I think reduction surgery is less severe than reconstruction (the study I found:

I wish you the best of luck and healing!


Shameika on April 26, 2016:

Hi, I costochondritis dor pver 2n.yrs now. The pain is terrible and last weeks at a time. Thanks foe your blog because for a long time I thought I was alone. Im having a flare up now and the gentle streaches are not helping. Just a couple questions

Does your pain radiate to nipples?

I have tenderness in my back shoulder blade left side. Is this unusual?

Also I have pain that stretches acrossy chest and upper back?

Should I sleep in a bra.

? I have heavy breast (G cup) and every bra hurts but no bra is just as bad.

Im considering a breasr reduction. Have you heardof good results with costochondritis after this procedure?

Thank you

Julie on April 11, 2016:

Hi. I first had costo back in 1997 and it was somewhat bad but better within a few months. Over the years I've had mild flare ups most likely because I have fibromyalgia, lyme, etc. But I had a bad chest cold and cough a few weeks back and I coughed so hard i got an intercostal muscle strain on my right side and costochondritis in the center of my chest low. Mine seems worse on the right but the spasms go everywhere. I can't seem to lay flat on my back as this causes spasms. Sleep is awful. Much worse flare of it than ever before, including the first time I had it. Housework impossible and if i get stressed at all, agony. Ended up at the ER to rule out other things. I took motrin for two weeks and had to stop due to breathing issues and I'm disappointed that it isn't better at all yet. And that intercostal strain. Ugh.

Thank you for writing this article. Gives me some ideas as I'm feeling pretty desperate.

michellemoseley from New Hampshire on March 28, 2016:

I was diagnosed with costochondritis about 3 months ago after going through many tests. I'm very glad to come across this hub page. It is helpful to hear what others have tried. I will be putting them to use as I try to cope with this pain. I am a hairdresser, so the constant use of my arms is making it difficult to do anything else. Fortunately, for me, I can take pain reliever. I am grateful for the relief I get from that!!

Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on August 26, 2015:

Hi Terri,

I haven't met anyone before with costo as long as I've had it (nearly 30 years now) - Thanks for stopping by!

The physio has triggered my costo when treating my cervical spine/neck too. I definitely resorted to the heat packs then! I'm actually a bit nervous, as I've had to sign up for a 'gymnastik' course, ordered by my doctor, for back strength and starting next week. But so many physios and course leaders have absolutely no idea about costo, and what movements can trigger it. Must remember to breathe and try to stay relaxed in the shoulders and chest.

terri on August 21, 2015:


I have had costo since I was a teenager ..I am now 43 yrs and over the years it has come and gone becoming chronic...I also over the years have been in and out of ER with mulitple heart tests all came back normal thankfully I know it is costo but it is frustrating ...2 years ago I got diagnosed with fybro as well right now I am having a flare up of the costo could be weather related could be because I have been bending and moving ...seeing a physio for my neck and he had me do some streatches which I think helped trigger this becasue before that I was fine for a few weeks no flare now I get that familiar dull pain in the middle of the upper sturnum or the pain that comes and goes in the upper sturnum I have my heat bag and tylnol should I need it today but I like everyone else am frustrated and angry with this pain it has changed my quality of life I used to be an active women now I do 30 min of low impact cardio(walking lunges squats and stationary bike ) 3x a week and it is not enough but I always try to talk myself out of the on set of panic ......I am at work right now and it is hurting but what can I do ...

Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on June 03, 2015:

Hi Lindsey,

I certainly do get flares from stress. I think it comes from how tense I am, and how much I crunch around my belly and round my shoulders when stressed. I'm still working on this aspect :-\ Heat packs, meditation (with the heatpacks!), and chest opening stretches several times a day reduces my flares, but they still can sneak up on me.

Best of luck and wishing you a low-pain day!

Lindsey on May 30, 2015:

Does anyone get flares from stress?

Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on March 30, 2015:

Donald - Costo is horrid, especially when it sticks around and refuses to respond to any treatments. So hard to even breathe, let alone anything else. It's good the docs have done the tests to rule out anything else.

I found an osteopath working on the muscles in my back helped to loosen the area more than a chiro (who only worked on the spine). I could then stretch and move more freely, which helps enormously to get past a flare. I have to switch up activities too - no long sitting on the computer, or cooking, or even reading. Staying in the one position made everything solid again. What has your chiro said would help?

Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on March 30, 2015:

Hi Shina,

Thank you! My sciatica rarely flares now, as I stretch regularly (piriformis/cat-cow/etc), and try to limit my time sitting at my computer. Personally, I also find the costo pain much harder to handle. The costo can flare without any warning, unlike my sciatica which I can feel creeping up one me. A wrong upper body movement or even a lot of stress can trigger the costo. Stretching the chest can shorten and reduce the pain of a costo flare, but I haven't found anything that stops them completely.

Donald Shriner on March 29, 2015:

Even seen a chiropractor for two months and have also tried herbal things like ginger and bark root

Donald Shriner on March 29, 2015:

I have tried stretching, rubs, nsaids, prednisone, heat and rest among other things. Only thing that helps my pain are Vicodin which I hate taking. I haven't worked since December I am very miserable this also gives me back and shoulder pain.

donald shriner on March 29, 2015:

I've been dealing with this non stop for about seven months now, haven't gotten a proper diagnosis although I believe this is what I have. Crushing squeezing pain around my xyphoid process and upper sternum where both the xyphoid process and the merenbrium or however you spell it meets the body of the sternum, I also get pain in my ribs on both sides. I've had a chest xray, EKG, loads of blood work, upper gi, an endoscope, I've had my galbladder removed, I've had a stress test on my heart, ct scan on lower abdomen and a ct scan on my chest in November. I used to be a police officer and worked out 5 days a week religiously, I've since had to resign from my position because of this. I have seen about a dozen ER doctors and 4 different general practitioners. None have given me answers. I am going to Cleveland clinic next week.

shina on March 25, 2015:

hi kym

i have just read your hub regarding sciatica .very well written and informative hub.i don't have a sciatica but i do suffer from have very little problem with sciatica now.please could you tell me how did you find relif from sciatica?which one is more painful costo or sciatica?For me my costo pain is hurrendous.

Maria on March 01, 2015:

Hey! I have been suffering from costochondiritis for 2 years now.I 'm 21 yrs old.My problem flares up in an interval of a week...there is this stabbing dull ache in my right ribs.Initially I had pain in my right the problem has been extended to my left ribs.I consulted docs for my problem...they gave me supplements which rarely helped.I'm afraid of execising since the day I had costochondiritis as it has always made my problem worse.The pain doesn't allow me to bend properly and carry heavy loads.I have recently started feeling unbearable pains during my sleep.I wakeup with painful ribcage conditions. What should I do to get rid of my pain.Someone plz guide.

Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on February 06, 2015:

Hi Sina,

Doctors never found anything wrong with me on scans/tests either!

My flares last anywhere from a week to several months. Lifting things, and especially crossing arms over chest with weight is excruciating during this time. I can't take many anti-inflammatories, so have to manage it with stretches and heat. It does take time!

The best way to avoid a flare for me, is to avoid the triggers - lifting heavy backpacks, high stress situations, carrying something heavy for a long time or with bad posture, a few hours of gardening or cooking. I have to break tasks up into smaller chunks, and stretch and breathe deeply regularly to consciously relax my chest and shoulders.

sina on February 06, 2015:

Hi kym

i have this conditioni about 20 far i had a four massive falre up which lasted about five to six months .i don't suffer very often with this condition but when i get an attack i get intense pain for two months and then dull ache for another three question is how long is your flare last?do you get intense constant pain?I get intense constant pain for two months.lifting a heavy object cause flare up in my case.i m going to try streches regularly to prevent the flare up.i take anti inflamentry drugs but it still takes six months to clear up costo pain.i don't know the underline causes of my costo but lifting a weight always spikes the costo pain.i had a all test done in the past but doctor couldn't findout anything wrong.

Lauren on January 22, 2015:

Hi, I have had costo for nearly a year. I first got sent for heart tests turns out I have a heart murmur and ended up having a lot of tests, then told everything is fine. After 8 months of chest pain I was diagnosed with Costo. I have tried massage, yoga, stretching and diet changes which I believe are helping. The pain is getting better and now comes and goes. I keep buying new bras incase that's making it worse. I get daily headaches now which may be from tight muscles or stress? I'm going to try an osteopath next. I really hope this goes completely away as it causes me to think I'm having a heart attack even though I have had my heart checked. For me stress definitely plays a roll. So does lifting my young kids. I no longer take any pain killers unless the pain gets real bad. I have a very tender spot at the base if my sternum it really hurts to touch. I hope we all get past this one day.

Roslyn on January 17, 2015:

I have had chronic costochondritis for over 20 years. I have asthma and it seems like they trigger each other; which makes since. Doctors have agreed that this could be true. Lifting heavy objects, improper posture when sitting, making awkward movements definitely make it worse. I have tried heat packs, pain relievers and injections and nothing seems to work. I take Tylenol #3 to give me relief because nothing else seems to work. However, it can cause liver problems. It is hard to sleep, carry groceries on flare ups and has basically made my life somewhat unbearable and therapy doesn't help me. The fumes from any type of ointments flare up the asthma. The sharp stabbing pain is unbearable. When it settles down, the pain is still very uncomfortable. I have seen a pain specialist that has suggested injections around the lung. I am afraid to try this. If there is anyone who has tried this and found relief, please respond. I feel like a roller coaster of pain for over 20 years and no one seems to understand it, except people who experience it.

Nikki on January 12, 2015:

Really liked this site, the hub author gave me more info on this then any other website i have looked at...and since i've had this for almost 4 weeks i've read a lot of post. None like this. I'm 104 pounds and i love hiking, but ive been house ridden since Dec. 18th and its really getting to me. I started out with a sever icy cold like pain in my upper right side of chest. It moved to the left side which sent me to the ER in pain. Had xrays blood test and ekg...all normal thank the Lord. However the pain was still the same so i followed up with 2 different docs. All said the same thing costro. They didn't know how it occurred but i was thinking that i strained my muscles when hiking and then i moved a piano. At my size it was a stupid thing to do. My family doc said the xrays came back a little high on the muscle check. Im 4 weeks into this and i have started getting pains in my ribs on both sides. Im praying this does go away but im afraid that i may have fibro.I get pains on the tops of my upper legs. Painful to the touch. Ive been taking IBP everyday since the 18th of Dec. and it helps a little. I'm hoping this is a sign that its going away.

marypolly on October 11, 2014:

About 5 yrs ago my husband and I lost everything we'd ever worked for in the financial crash via Icelandic banks. Although a retired nursing matron I had to go back to work. We were living in Spain but I found a job in UK which provided accommodation. It was a 2 week on and 1 week off, so I was doing a commute from London to Spain to make sure my husband (then in his late seventies) was ok. 2 years into this situation (trying to pay for lawyers fighting our case) I began to dread getting on the aircraft as I had developed an excruciating pain searing from R upper back through to front ribs. Now this story is a complex one as all kinds of other life issues occurred - some of which left us reeling with anxiety. My pain in the ribs developed into horrendous pain of all sorts, stabbing, burning, dull ache, severe sternum, neck and torso discomfort. I went to A and E five times, sobbing and writhing, yelping etc. On my last visit I was told in no uncertain terms that as my pain was chronic I was causing an inappropriate use of NHS resources (bit of a blow to be treated that way as a senior level, dedicated nurse). Anyhow, as you will all know the road to diagnosis is long and frustrating and not meaning to sound dramatic I wanted to die rather than live with this pain forever. Nothing I have been prescribed works. It's still there just as bad as its always been (sorry folks). Apart from the cocktail of drugs (the usual suspects) I have tried physio, chiro, acupuncture, acupressure, cupping, gentle massage, sports massage, traction, polarity therapy, flotation tanks, acti patches, magnetic therapy. Again, nothing works. In fact any type of massage I now realise (a few hundred £s later) that it exacerbates the problem. As putting one foot in front of the other when walking causes extreme pain in my torso I applied for a blue badge parking permit. After my assessment I received a letter stating I ha been tured down as "there is no clinical evidence to support your claim". Reader and fellow sufferer I now realise that this 'rare' condition is not understood or even knownto most health professionals. I got so angry over the last 5 years and this was having a negative effect on me. I have ultimately decided that, as this is n't going to kill me, plus the ignorance of the condition, I'm going it alone. I garden, walk, do all my housework, lift anything I can manage (I haven't done any of these things for years for fear of something going badly wrong). There is no change to the frequency (I don't know what a flare up is as it is constantly the same) or the level of pain. The change is in how I EXPERIENCE the pain. By the way, we lost our case, our house our life savings. Stress has to play a Huge part in this condition. But I wont let those Icelanic bankers take away my quality of life too.

Paul on September 26, 2014:

I'm 29 from scotland and I've had this for the last 4/5 years. But I have to agree with max on this. When I have a bout of pain I stretch by pushing my chest forward and my shoulders back until I hear a crack/pop - similar to cracking your knuckles - and the pain instantly goes away and all movement is restored. Sometimes tho and I stress this, its doesn't always crack/pop and it can be very painful. In this instance I would try to keep moving and get heat on it to dull the pain, I would also take some ibuprofen.

Uzwal on September 23, 2014:

Hi guys,

Want to share mine too,Almost three years back it started with a mild pain.. in fact the pain was like my left rib (almost in middle) or muscle was stretched , actually I was unable to locate it exactly...I went through ECO,ECG,Thoiroid and all sorts of tests( Reports were normal)..A doctor even advised to take Vitamin "E"pills..and I did it too..Ultimately an Artho Doctor diagonosed it as Costochondritis, but I was surprised to get no medicine for this,rather he advised for some exercises and painkiller and hot bag compression ,I guess its all because of my bad posture,

I get it once or twice in a month..but amazingly,as I feel its going worst

I try to manage myself to lie down somewhere(mostly my bed) for a

while and then it gets the sleeping posture and the stress goes away. As per my concern,I have not used any pain relief pills so far and sleeping posture really works for me ...but I really want to get rid of it.Thinking to follow some old Aayurvedic and Yoga techniques. Get well soon everybody.

Louise Moris on September 13, 2014:

I developed this illness after coming home from the hospital. I suffered serious condition from very low potassium. Did not have Costochondritis prior to hospital. I am 78 yrs old and have always been active. Work part-time as a Asst. librarian. I want to continue to work, but the pain makes it difficult. I ave learned a lot from your comments and recommendations. Thank you.

Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on July 08, 2014:

Hi Val,

Sorry to hear you have this horrid condition! I also can't take NSAIDs, due to having a dodgy kidney.

Mine is a symptom of fibromyalgia, so unfortunately, I haven't been able to get rid of it yet (25+ years).

For most people, costo goes away after 3-6 months, with help from physical therapy and inflammation reduction.

For me to get past a flare and back to my 'maintenance' stage, I use heat packs and hot showers (gentle massage head), sports rubs (not when using a heatpack), stretching gently many times a day, plus avoiding as much as possible, all of the following: heavy doors, lifting, twisting+lifting especially, opening tightly sealed jars, and using shoulder and sling bags.

Physiotherapy or osteotherapy may also help. Personally I avoid chiropractors since one ripped a muscle during treatment.

Many people to better when they *ice* their chest instead of using heat.

Try some things, and stick with whatever relieves your pain.

Please let us know how you are doing, good luck and a speedy recovery!


Val on July 06, 2014:

Costo from having a lap appendectomy..... I just had emergency surgery for my appendix and my surgeon on my follow up diagnosed me with this. I cannot take NSAIDS, due to having a VGS procedure 3 1/2 months before. Any ideas on what to do to help and how long this May last???

Will on June 19, 2014:

Your column has been a lifesaver in so many ways. Have never has this condition and here I am 58 years old. Managed to do it when painting my house. Horrendous...Thank my lucky stars for you!

Anjali on June 08, 2014:

Hi Kym..I know its too late to reply about the result of the exercises and activities you mentioned to do..But i must say that your advice was very helpful..i recovered from the ailment now.This site has been very useful for me especially ur suggestions and concern.Thank you so much..:)


Jules on May 31, 2014:

Hi i got diagnosed with chiropractor costo 6 months ago it started off with a dull ache in the sternum area and just got worse. I suffer everyday and have been to several Dr's and physio and osteopath . I next step is a chiropractor and Dr organised a bon scan to rule out anything else. Resting didn't help so i am walk running again and doesn't seem to get better or worse. Sick of pain and don't like taking pain killers but don't have much of a choice. I hope one day someone can find a cure

Gwendolyne Black from Erwin, TN on May 06, 2014:

I have this and at first I went to ER cause it felt like a heart attack. Very well done Hub. Not easy to live with this but is possible. I have try many of these methods and so far the MG Pro treatment has help a lot for me.

Adarsh on May 04, 2014:

whenever i Pressed my chest wall it hurts, i get this pain every time whenever i lift anything heavy... underwent echo and stress test to rule out heart disease... doctor prescribed me muscle relaxtants but pain recurring again and again.... am i suffering from costochondritis ?

Rhita on May 03, 2014:

I first developed costochondritis about 18 years ago when I worked as a short order cook in a deli. The repetitive motions and constant being on my feet did me in. I took medicine for it then (muscle relaxers) and over time it just seemed to go away. I don't remember any major flares since, then in December of last year I got overwhelmed with stress, coupled with a sinus infection, and the costo came back with a vengeance! I can't do much about the stress (unemployed, graduating from a Master's program, and looking for a job) but I am doing all I can to manage it - yoga, reading Scripture, praying, walking, etc. Sometimes the walking and yoga don't get done because the difficulty breathing kicks in (I also have acid reflux, which only hinders the breathing). I have a constant post nasal drip that I am convinced is triggered by this all somehow. I can't seem to get rid of that and the sore throat that goes along with it only makes breathing more difficult. I alternate between heat and ice, use Bengay Deep Freeze before bedtime, and am trying to work on my posture (I admit, it's not the best). My graduate school is 150 miles from my house, so the weekly commute for 4 1/2 years certainly contributed to my flare. Thankfully it waited until my last semester to act up! I'm trying to get to bed at a regular time, do as little lifting as possible, and take it easy on myself. Reminding myself to take it one day or one step at a time is the hardest - I'm not so patient with healing! I want to be better right now and I know that's not likely to happen. Thank you for your site. It is comforting to know I'm not alone. My throat is very raw today from the reflux, post nasal drip, and coughing/clearing my throat. Most of the last part is nervous energy - I don't like the feeling of not being able to take a deep breath and so my breathing gets all messed up because of my anxiety. Costo is a mess. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy (if I had one).

Rachel on April 29, 2014:

Although they can be addictive with long term use, benzodiazepine drugs like Valium can help when costo pain spikes. They shouldn't be used on a regular basis as benzos have a sedatory effect, easily become addictive and can be difficult to withdraw from.. only when a muscle relaxant would really help or as a sleep aid. I'm currently on an anti-depressant, slowly moving up to a more therapeutic dose to help relieve my anxiety and depression over having costo as a result of gallbladder surgery a couple of months ago.

Adriana on April 17, 2014:

Thanks for the site it helps so much! I went to the ER twice in one week thinking that I was having a heart attack ! Today I was so sick that every time that I went up or down the stairs or I talked a little longer in the phone I couldn't catch my breath and felt so tired and so out of breath! Doctors said that all of my tests came out fine EKG blood tests and etc...I have pain on my left side under my breast, my left shoulder and arm, and right at the middle of the chest. Once I stopped using the underwire bra it helped a little but this out of breath issue and palpitations is really worrying me specially since the doctors don't find nothing. Please I need help!

Carolynannwatson on March 28, 2014:

Hi all, just found this very useful forum. I got Costco after getting shingles (Ramsay hunt) and now have chronic with flares. I found first a bra that helped a lot as the weight for c cup breasts was making it worse. I got a bra from Target called "remarkable" it has underwires but there is something about the structure which is good. Then during a flare up I belly breathe and also wear one of those magnetic back braces called " magnetic lumba support" which I wear a bit higher as it both warms the mid chest and also comes up beneath breasts so that it lifts them a bit. I just found that I have scoliosis with degenerating discs so am trying to help all bones! Hope this might help a bit

Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on March 24, 2014:

Frankie - Ice may reduce the swelling (like a normal injury). You are definitely not alone! Please drop by again and let us know how you're going. Good luck, and a speedy healing!

FrankieWilliamson from Colorado Springs, Colorado on March 24, 2014:

My left side is not bruised but it may be swollen. The medication that I am taking is not helping at all, and it does upset me some but other than that I am going to start stretching in the mornings and trying some of your recommendations. Reading this page had helped me a lot and masking me feel like I'm not alone with this Costochondritis. Also I feel like I can talk about it here and people actually know what I'm talking about without having to explain to nurses or other people what it is. So thank you so much for this page

Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on March 24, 2014:

Frankie - I panic too when the pain spikes on the heart side, and have to very consciously manage my thoughts and anxiety. I *know* it's costo, but on an emotional level it's still scary!

Is the bruised area discoloured? I haven't had any obvious bruising, except the pain on pressing certainly feels like it's bruised!

Is the naproxen helping? It's an anti-inflammatory medication so should help reduce the inflammation and pain somewhat.

Other than that, I can only recommend heat/ice, stretching, reducing stress, consciously breathing into your belly, and some other anti-anxiety techniques as I've mentioned in a couple of other comments.

Of course, getting help around the house, modifying how you lift, carry and move heavy objects, light massages and lots of gentle, reassuring hugs all help too!

Good luck, and let us know how you go!

Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on March 24, 2014:

Liz - From what I have read in the medical literature, surgery is only indicated if there are one or two intercostal joints that are obviously inflammed (these are removed). Otherwise, there isn't really anything to operate on. Inflammation is not so easily removed if it isn't in just one, localised spot.

Have you tried the stretches, heat or ice and other techniques?

Good luck and speedy healing!

Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on March 24, 2014:

RandG211 - Some people respond better to cold than heat - I'm glad you found that out! Personally my pain spikes with ice packs, so I'm on the heat side.

Anxiety and panic attacks will make costo symptoms much worse. Try some meditation and relaxation techniques, and look at CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). I found that really helped me when I was strugging with depression and PTSD. I also found deep breathing, when you first breathe into your stomach helped -- I could let the air in under the rib cage without it expanding and hurting so much.

I also have to use a heavy backpack (teaching in various locations), so I put the packed backpack on a table or high bench, and shrug both arms in at the same time. I can't sling my bag from one side over a shoulder -- that causes the worst costo spikes!

Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on March 24, 2014:

Paula - it's quite possible your osteo session could trigger a flare up, especially if your osteo is not familiar with costo. What did your osteo say?

Stress really does play a huge part in pain management. When you are stressed, the ability to deal with pain shrinks massively. I'm unsure with one of my jobs at the moment, which means the costo pain has returned (along with other fibro symptoms). It's tough dealing with intertwined problems!

Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on March 24, 2014:

esully - I also have trouble with underwire bras - sports bras without wires have helped, or just tighter tank tops instead (when at home!) How are the stretches going?

FrankieWilliamson from Colorado Springs, Colorado on March 24, 2014:

Hi everybody, so I have had costochondritis since I was young and lately it has been getting worst. It started of being an "attack" every one in a great while but now it's been getting to everyday. I went to the ER because my husband was concerned it might have been a heart attack (I texted him this site too educate him about my condition since this is the BEST sure I have found ) but they just have me naproxen. It is to the point where I think it is starting to bruise my left rib cage because it feels looks a horrible bruise in that area. Is or has anyone else going or fine through this? If so did you find a way to help the pain? (I just found this page and i am just starting to try some of the home remedies from this site )

FrankieWilliamson from Colorado Springs, Colorado on March 23, 2014:

Hello everyone, I have had costochondritis some I was in middle school, I am now 21. Lately my chest pains have been more frequent and more painful. Now it is to the point where it has been hurting everyday and it it's masking me miserable. I found this site and am starting to try some of the home remedies and I also gave my husband this site too do he could understand what I am gluing through. But had anyone else gone through what I am going through? If so PLEASE help

liz on March 23, 2014:

Has anyone had surgery to help ??? I am so tired of hurting all the time.

RandG211 on March 22, 2014:

I was told by and ER doctor after I went in for chest pains (felt like I was having a heart attack) that my symptoms are from Costochondritis. I also feel like I have trouble breathing and get very bad anxiety/panic attacks. I try to calm my self down because if I don't it causes the pain to hurt more leading to a vicious cycle of pain-anxiety-pain-anxiety. I really have not tried any heating treatments because when I took hot showers the heat and steam made me have difficulty breathing. Usually I use cold ice packs when the pain starts which seems to cool the painful sensations. I am definitely going to start trying sport menthol rubs. It is hard not to carry a backpack or purse since I take the bus to college and need the supplies. This is nuts I have had this pain for weeks at a time. day after day. It only seems to subside for a few hours out of the day. I hope and pray that everyone who is dealing with heals and becomes pain free. God bless us all! Any advice please feel free to reply I feel like crying sometimes :(

esully on March 19, 2014:

Hope ur feeling better Paula, can't imagine having to take care of little ones. Take care

Paula on March 15, 2014:

It's great finding a site where I'm not the only suffering this crappy pain. I was first diagnosed 4 months ago with pain in my breastbone (all other heart conditions have been tested and ruled out). Then pain moved to my ribs as well and on top of that was experiencing reflux pain just under the breastbone from gluten which I have since discovered I am coeliac. So removing gluten the reflux pain went and the costo pain subsided but still there. I stopped wearing underwire bras, just soft cotton bras and that helped with the pressure under the breasts. Then a fortnight ago I developed terrible vertigo which has now settled due to seeing an Osteopath for having my neck and upper back out. However I'm wondering if my last Osteo session has trigged my latest flare up. It feels like I'm back to square one and I'm so tired of it all. I've literally sat here on the couch all day trying not to move my chest as the pain is so intense. I've been rubbing some tiger balm on it (great advice I read further up!). Having young kids who just want to jump all over me adds to the pain and doesn't help with my husband who wants to be sympathetic but does a lot of sneaky roll eyeing which I can see and makes me feel like I'm being a drama queen when I'm not. It literally hurts to breathe and live! I do notice when the pain is intense it flares up worse when the kids or husband raise their voice, like it's reacting to stress or something. I will ask my Osteo when I go back in a few days if the work he did might have triggered it or in fact ask if he can do some work on my back that could relieve it. That would be wonderful :) So that's my story at the moment.

esully on March 13, 2014:

I find using rubs and Tylenol works best. Sometimes I freeze a waterbottle and place it between my breasts. Heated corn bag also. Never know if it is from my acid burning my sternum. Since menopause I have been having great aniexty and always thinking it is my heart. I am now trying your exercises for stretching. I mosty have tenderness in my chest area, can this be costo or sometime else. I read that costo sufferers have sharp pain and band like pain which I don't really have. Where my bra rests does cause pain at times. Mine is mosty sore in v of chest, sternum and breasts muscles. Walking hills, exercise, and a lot of arm movement does aggervate it. Thanks for all your support and caring.

Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on March 13, 2014:

Hi Esully,

I don't have GERDS at all, thankfully. The combination of GERDS and costo must be much more difficult! I'm glad your doctor did tests to rule more serious things out!

The sharp stabbing pains and then the long-term ache in and around the sternum area sounds very much like costo. It is very painful, and especially when you are larger in the chest (me too!) Sometimes I get what feels like a spike going through from my back to chest. And because of the bracing of muscles against the pain, stiff neck and shoulders are common.

What has helped reduce the pain? Does ice or heat help? Streching or massage (ow!)?

Best of luck!

I agony on March 13, 2014:

Thanks ..... Yes thank god I got relief in two days :) best of luck everyone ....

esully on March 12, 2014:

I don't know if I have the same thing. The v area above my breasts and sterum ache to the touch. Also makes my breasts hurt. I did have some sharp chest pains about a month before after shampooing carpets. Now it is achy. Had cardio work up to rule that out. However it is still scary. Told my doc about it it my physical, and all she said is that it is a common complaint. I also have gerds bad. Is this considered what you have. It was very painful after my stress test also. Thanks so much. I'm very sorry for the pain you all are going thru. I find myself crying a lot because of it. Im large breasted and that doesn't help either. Somethings it feels like a pullng pain in neck and chest. Thanks

Alison, N.I on March 12, 2014:

I was diagnosed with costo about 8 years ago following a very bad viral infection in by throat and chest. Got to the stage where it was affecting my breathing as my body was not allowing my lungs to fully inflate because it was just too painful. After about a year of anti-inflammatory drugs and 6 months off work I went to see a Bowen therapist and after 3 sessions was off the antiinflamatories. It was the first time I'd had any pain relief for so long and it was fantastic. I would recommend anyone to give it a try. Bowen works by stimulating the body's soft tissue to heal itself. It is non-invasive so is usually not painful on the sore chest area. I still go every 6 weeks for a treatment as unfortunately my chosto is never too far from flare ups but at least this way I can keep drug free and cope.. I have had to give up my full time job as a primary school teacher as the lung power required for such a full on job simply couldn't be maintained any more. I now still teach but only in a small group situation and only part time. The only other time I have been completely pain free was during my 2 pregnancies and whilst breast feeding. two weeks after stopping breast feeding the costo pain was back it may be a bit extreem but!!!!!

So interesting to read that peeling veg causes you problems and that you plan your route to avoid opening heavy doors. This is now how I live my life it would really get you down if you thought about all the things you can't do any more, like shopping in the sales becaue I can't stretch up to pull hangers across etc but I tell myself it could be so much worse and I have 2 beautiful boys who need their mummy to be up for anything!

My Mum is just back from a cruise around the Caribbean and has told me a cure African women hav used for years that she heard of whilst there.... the fruit of the baobab tree. This is why I just happened to find your sight tonight as I came on to research this new @cure@ I am going to get some of this powder called Cosnofax and give it a go. Will let you know how I get on. thanks Alison.

Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on March 10, 2014:

In Agony - I hope the combination helped this time around!

Izzy - it's so easy to overdo it and move in a way that can make the costo pain come back when you are healing. It feels often like 2 steps forward, 1 step back! I hope you are doing better now! I haven't used a TENS machine, although I have had something similar at a physio for sciatica (didn't seem to work on me, unfortunately).

Tyler - I'm glad acupuncture helped you! It can increase blood flow to the area, which can help the healing process. It is certainly important to keep trying, and keep a positive outlook!

Rajiv - Perhaps your son can try the gentle stretching exercises outlined in the article above, and heat or cold packs. Most people find the gentle movement more relieving than ibuprofen! Personally, the heat packs help me the most.

rajiv on March 03, 2014:

my son who is 9 yrs old have digonis with this problem in chest pain we are giving him ibprohen 200 two times in a day with no effect kindly suggest me some pain relief medicine thanks in advance

Tyler on February 27, 2014:

Hey Folk! I have been suffering with costo for almost a year now. I started going away a few months back and I took advantage of the pain relife and started going back to the gym and dancing and having "fun" again. Lo and behold, it came back with a vengeance and I was out of work for about a week. I have had every test under the sun and everything came up negative and I was still having pain.

I started going on these sites and seeing what others are doing and decided I was going to beat this thing. 3 weeks ago I was wearing a rib wrap because it would help with the shotting pain and assist when I was driving. 3 weeks ago I also started a Paleo diet, getting plenty of rest, taking fish oil (3x a day 1200mg), getting ultrasound from a chiroprator, and decided I was going to bit the bullet and gets acupuncture and im feeling AMAZING!!

I went from making no progress at all to almost total relife. I did Yoga last night and it was so great getting back to the gym. I also was able to do seated bike as well. I was into crossfit and running before all of this and I can finally see this in my future.

I have dreams of running almost every week and now maybe my dreams will become relatity soon!!!

I hope this motivate you folks to think outside the box and keep a positive attitude. There is hope for some of us. :)

PS-- I have been taking Ibprohen 800 2x daily for months now which seems to help with the pain a bit and im keeping it up through this whole process.

Izzy on February 21, 2014:

I've developed costo after a respiratory virus last October, and fear it is now becoming chronic, perhaps because I've suffered from ME & fibromyalgia for 20 years, though this is a totally new kind of pain. Been taking glucosamine/chondroitin, MSM & celadrin and doing v gentle stretches and thought it was improving, in fact had a few days with almost no pain, but then I lifted a garden pot and although I didn't feel anything at the time, it's really flared up the last 10 days or so, although I'm not having the breathing or 'heart attack' type pains I had initially, more a raw burning feeling across the whole chest and tenderness over the breastbone. The pain is there 24/7 and NSAIDs don't seem to be doing much. it's also having a knock on effect on back, neck & shoulders.

Been thinking about trying a TENS machine - I wonder if anyone else has tried this, though I guess it may be a bit tricky as it's close to the heart area.

Many thanks....

In agony on February 20, 2014:

Hi there

I had my first flare of costa 4 years ago . After months and moths of clear test I was diagnosed with costa . It took 2 years of trying every kind of pain relief for anything. To actually work .... In the end I happened to also developer an absuss in my gum .... The dentist prescribed me a mixture of ibufrin and antibiotics and also ponston for my tooth . Amazingly 3 days later my absus was gone and so was my costa. I didn't have a single pain for 2 years until today it flared so bad i tgought it wss a heart attack , and I am in absolute agony all day and can't function . I asked my doctor to prescribe the same mix of tablets and fingers crossed it will work again ..... I don't understand why a lot of doctors know so little about this debilitating agony ..... Yes I also find a hot water bottle helps , menthol creams and a big pillow to wedge against my chest to get some sleep .... I just hope they work tonight :( feel sorry for anyone who just can't shake this pain it's awful .... Thanks for this page it makes me feel not alone .

Anjali on February 20, 2014:

Thank u so much Kym.U have helped me a lot by your suggestions and by making me feel relaxed that i can overcome this pain.yes i will surely start exercises and let you know about the results.This information on costochondritis will help many people like me..Noble job!



Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on February 20, 2014:

Hi Anjali,

Any exercises that don't stress the chest muscles should be fine as you come out of a flare.

Light cardio (without overly strong breathing), such as walking, step aerobics and so on were usually fine for me.

Weight exercises for the legs and lower back, similar. Squats, lunges, toe raises, and some standing yoga poses typically won't hurt.

Add upper body work slowly, leaving push-ups and pull-ups until last!

Please do let me know which exercises are ok for you, and which cause too much costo pain!


Tracy on February 19, 2014:

I first wanted to say what a great article this is, and how informative it was to me! Thank you! I was diagnosed with Costochondritis about 6-12 months or so after suffering with the dreaded swine flu in 2012. At first I thought I was having a heart attack, as the pain was on the left upper chest wall along with some numbness & tingling in my hand and radiating to my back/shoulder. It was so extremely painful. Dr. gave me Vicodin which helped, but constipates me terribly, and to apply heat/ice, don't lift heavy things,etc. Now I recently got the flu in January and I am currently going through a flare up. I had gastric bypass in May of 2013, and I was told not to take NSAIDS because of the risk for ulcers due to pills sitting in the pouch,etc. But I took liquid Advil instead, on a full stomach. It helps very little though. So I have been using the rubs with menthol and capsaicin which help somewhat, and elevation of the arm helps too. To all of you who suffer with this too, I feel your pain, and pray you all heal from this terrible condition someday. I'm hanging in there toughing out the pain and enjoying life as much as I can!! Its rough, but my faith is strong, and I believe I will receive healing when God allows! God bless you all

Anjali on February 18, 2014:

Hey Kym thank u for the reply ..yes iam slowly doing things which my body can tolerate without taking much stress.But one more thing i was worried about is how many days/weeks/months it will take for me to start my fitness regime.Its hard to just sit at home doing no fitness. Any suggestions?

Thank u



Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on February 15, 2014:

Hi Anjali! Sorry to hear you've been hit by costo too. Personally, I try to scale back my home tasks when the costo flares. Anything that stresses the chest muscles, like reaching forward or across my body while holding weight can make it worse.

For example, vacuuming, washing floors, lifting heavy washing baskets, carrying shopping, or even cooking heavy things like 5 L of water or pasta sauce, or something in a very heavy pot (Le Creuset). These are things I try to get help with.

On the other hand, if you take tasks slowly, do a bit at a time, stretch regularly, and use heat or ice, most things can be done.

Good luck, and let us know how it goes!


Anjali on February 14, 2014:

Hi ..i got to know that im suffering with costochondritis 1 wk back.i have pain in lower ribs left side..the pain now is little better after taking anti inflammatory. Now my concern is can i do my house hold activities n kitchen activities like cleaning and cooking.??your reply would be appreciated.thank u

zia on February 08, 2014:

Helo friends..i developed costo from a stupid rigorous push ups in october 2012..after few days i noticed pain and discomfort in my gave me nsaid's and vit b12 supplement..i got better aftr few weeks...but the exruciating pain came back in june 2013..i went to d other doctor and he also gifted me more painkillers..after few months i went to a physiotherapist and he treated me for a month...i think from november onwards..december and january passed with absolutely no pain whatsoever..i thot i am normal again...but now the pain is there again..along with pins and needles like stabbings..i hate that..i personally wouldn't recommend painkillers to anybody...please don't take them no mattr wt..stretching helps..warm cold compresses helps..avoid smoking and second hand smoke..dont eat junk at any healthy...don't think about costo all d tym..ignore it..don't lift anything even if u get better..avoid strong..aftr all it's a medical condition..and we are blessed with an immune system..try to communicate with it..take control of your words may sound weird but believe me i m also a positive..god bless

Elana Manderfield on February 03, 2014:

I have fibromyalgia to start with, never had any problem with Costochondritis until I did repetitive motion with my left arm. That was 4 months ago and in the beginning when I first got the inflammation it was horrible. I thought I was dying. It has improved allot. However I have started water aerobics and every time I do them it starts hurting or it feels like cramping all across my chest and back. But after a while it goes away. I don't want to quit exercising, it has been good for my Fibro. and my self esteem. I look forward to the exercises and dread them at the same time.

Tyler on January 29, 2014:

I was recently diagnosed at the hospital with this so I followed up with an orthopedist. He basically said to me, in not so different words, shit happens. Not tooooooo happy.

Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on January 28, 2014:

Hi Veronica,

I can only answer - it's different for each patient.

For some (the very small minority), it sticks around for years or longer, and then it's just management, both reactive to control flares, and proactive to prevent flares. For most people, it clears up after a few weeks or months.

I've had it for a good 20+ years now, but I have had many many more good and non-pain days than costo flare days. When it does flare, I follow the treatment regime that works (heat, stretches, sports rubs, low-dose ibuprofen, avoid all activities that stress the chest muscles), and then it's back to background in a few days. Although, I am still careful how I move for a few more weeks. It flares a few times a year - usually in high stress periods when I'm more lax with my pro-active stretching, or if I get a chest cold (strong coughing is a dreadful trigger for me!)

Normal treatments, ibuprofen to reduce inflammation, gentle stretching to restore mobility and improve blood flow, heat or ice packs (whichever works for you), sports rubs and gentle massage. Avoid twisting and weight bearing loads (swinging bags across body, wearing heavy bags, opening heavy swing doors, any upper body work at the gym, etc.), until the pain is manageable, and then slowly work back into activities that caused pain when the flare was bad. Longer term, keep stretching, try to improve posture and spend less time on computers or with arms forward.

Let us know which treatments work best for you!


Veronica on January 28, 2014:

Hi, so just wondering is there no way of getting rid of it? Only can we manage it? If we can cure it, can you tell me how? Thanks for the forum. Nice to know im not alone.

Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on January 23, 2014:

Laura - I'm so sorry that you also have this as a chronic condition!

You are right - anything can trigger a pain spike. Lifting a bag onto a shoulder, opening a door, even opening a bottle -- anything that uses the chest muscles.

Try to work out your worst triggers first. For me, I had to stop playing wind instruments and violin for a good 6 months when I was at school. When I got it again in my 20s, I had to ask for the doors in the office to remain open (or take a route with fewer heavy doors). With both, I had to switch to a backpack, and put it on my back by resting it first on a table or shelf (and not slinging it). Those were my worst triggers.

Then try different things for relieve -- stretching, hot / cold packs, sports rubs (tiger balm), anti-inflammatory medications (if you can have them).

My breathing has been forever altered thanks to recurring costochondritis (it's a symptom of fibromyalgia) - I breathe mostly into my belly, rarely moving my upper chest.

As a dancer, costo will be harder to get rid of if you use your upper body to lift or twist a lot. On the other hand, being more flexible and stretching regularly will help.

Best of luck!

Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on January 23, 2014:

Tammie - it's very normal in the beginning, when you first get costochondritis, to have trouble taking deep breaths. Coughing and yawning are much worse. I find deep belly breathing helps, as you are moving your upper chest much less.

Laura on January 22, 2014:

I have been diagnosed with this for over a year...... Studies say it should be getting better but it's not! It's napping at school (I'm 17) at home at the mall when I'm sleeping and anything triggers it. I am also a dancer and gets pretty bad when I dance. Is this normal? Just want to be able to take a deep breath!

tammie on January 21, 2014:

I have had this about three weeks is it normal to keep happenung to catch my breath?