Chest Wall Pain

Chest wall pain is pain in the bones, cartilage, or muscles that make up the chest wall. Chest wall pain occurs in a specific area of the chest and may feel worse when pressure is applied to the area.

Chest wall pain can be caused by many problems, including:

  • An injury, such as a blow to the chest.
  • Prolonged or violent coughing, which can strain the muscles or ligaments in the chest.
  • Inflammation of the cartilage of the rib cage (costochondritis).

Chest wall pain usually feels different than the chest pain of a heart attack. Breathing deeply, lying on the affected area, or moving, such as twisting to the side or raising the arms, also can make chest wall pain feel worse.

Treatment for chest wall pain depends on the cause of the pain. Minor chest wall pain is treated with rest, ice or heat applied to the area, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or acetaminophen. If the chest wall pain is the result of coughing, the pain should improve as the cough improves.

Last Revised: September 13, 2012

Author: Healthwise Staff

Medical Review: William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & David Messenger, MD

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