Costochondritis is inflammation where your ribs join the bone in the middle of your chest (breastbone). It can cause sharp chest pain, especially when moving or breathing. It usually gets better on its own over time.

Check if you have costochondritis

Costochondritis may cause sharp pain in the front or side of your chest.

The pain may be worse when:

Urgent advice: Get help from NHS 111 if:

  • you think you have costochondritis

It is important to get chest pain checked to rule out other more serious conditions.

You can call 111 or get help from 111 online.

Immediate action required: Call 999 if:

You have sudden chest pain that:

  • spreads to your arms, back, neck, or jaw
  • makes your chest feel tight or heavy
  • started with a shortness of breath, sweating, feeling sick or being sick
  • lasts more than 15 minutes

You could be having a heart attack. Call 999 immediately as you need immediate treatment in hospital.

Treatments for costochondritis

Costochondritis usually gets better on its own, over time. It can last for a few weeks to several months.

Painkillers that help with inflammation, like ibuprofen, may be recommended to help with the pain.

If you have very bad pain that does not get better over time, you may be offered a steroid injection to help reduce inflammation or local anaesthetic to ease the pain.

Causes of costochondritis

It is not always known what causes costochondritis, but it may be caused by:

Sometimes it may be caused by a problem with the joints in the back, or another underlying condition like fibromyalgia or rheumatoid arthritis.

It can also be caused by an infection.

Page last reviewed: 26 July 2022
Next review due: 26 July 2025