Costochondritis is simply when the cartilage of the ribs at the front of your chest where they meet your sternum (middle of chest bone) become inflamed. So when do you know if you’re having a heart attack or if its costochondritis?

Chest pain can be scary, and the first thought is usually heart attack. Chest pain should always be treated as an emergency but sometimes it isn’t one. One study suggests that 30% of people who visit the emergency department with chest pain are diagnosed with costochondritis. But what is it?

Heart attack symptoms:

  • Deep chest pain and people usually describe it as tightness.
  • Left arm pain.
  • Women can get an indigestion pain instead.
  • Perspiration (sweating).
  • Worse with exercise (increasing heart rate).
  • Vague left jaw, neck, shoulder and arm pain.

Costochondritis symptoms:

  • Chest pain near the sternum that feels on top of the bone.
  • Coughing, sneezing or taking a deep breath can cause pain.
  • Pain stays constant with heart rate variability.
  • Can get better with ice therapy or anti-inflammatory medication.
  • Pain can get worse with movement of torso.

It is hard to diagnose costochondritis as you want to rule out serious conditions first due to the chest pain, but usually depending on the symptoms and the mechanism of injury it’s a lot easier to know its more than likely costochondritis. An osteopath would assess the area and rule out any serious condition that may require further medical attention.

What we can do for you:

At Correct Osteo Clinic we would perform a full assessment to take into consideration if there is anything in your medical history that could predispose the onset of costochondritis. We look for any anatomical abnormalities and restrictions in range of motion. We then treat accordingly using joint mobilisation, soft tissue massage and a wide range of other modalities that we are highly trained in. We would always empower you to have enough knowledge and self help advise so you know how to help yourself.

Here is a bit of advice in the meantime:

  • Avoid activities which make your pain worse.
  • Gentle exercising. Reduce impact exercises.
  • Maintain cardiovascular health with exercises that won’t strain your chest.
  • Apply ice to the area several times a day, 10 minute intervals for 1 hour to decrease the inflammation
  • Magnesium can help with muscle relaxation and recovery. We normally advise people to use this before bed as it can make you feel drowsy.
  • The use of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication) can be considered and discussed with a pharmacist or GP to reduce the inflammation.
  • Gentle stretching of the chest muscles to reduce the tension on the rib cartilage.


Even though costochondritis can be painful it is not permanent and can be treated. Understanding why its happened and how to help yourself is crucial, and that is why seeing a health professionals such as ourselves can really help.

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Osteopathy works with the structure and function of the body, and is based on the principle that the well-being of an individual depends on the skeleton, muscles, ligaments, viscera and connective tissues functioning smoothly together Osteopathy takes a holistic, whole-body approach to healthcare.