Top 5 Exercises for Costochondritis

What is Costochondritis?

Costochondritis is a condition that affects the chest wall and is pathologically not-serious, despite being reasonably common. It results from inflammation of the cartilage connecting the ribs to the breastbone (sternum). Typically, it causes a sharp, localised chest pain, typically at the costosternal joint (where the ribs attach to the breastbone).

The condition is frequently misdiagnosed as a heart attack or heart problem, because the pain can be intense and spread to the neck and shoulder. However, it is not life-threatening, and the pain subsides in a few days or weeks on average. However, caution should always be first, and if you get pain that you think may be costochondritis, you must go to see your GP to rule out any heart-related issue.

Causes and diagnosis

Costochondritis is commonly caused by repetitive activities such as heavy lifting, sports participation, and overstretching. There are a lot of people who also believe that stress is a key factor.

The most common symptom of costochondritis is sharp, localised chest pain. It is sometimes worsened by deep breathing or coughing, and is sometimes felt in the back or abdomen. Other possible symptoms include chest tenderness, difficulty breathing, and fatigue.

Costochondritis is typically diagnosed through a physical examination, without the need for additional testing. However, if the chest pain is severe or persistent, the doctor may order an X-ray to rule out other potential causes.

Treatment for Costochondritis

Typically, costochondritis is treated with rest, anti-inflammatory drugs, and heat or cold therapy. It is essential to avoid painful activities and avoid lifting heavy objects. In some cases, physiotherapy may also be beneficial to reduce pain, stretch the chest, and mobilise the ribs. At Surrey Physio, we perform manual therapy and electrotherapy to help reduce the pain, and it does seem to work well. A 2009 study compared a group of patients who were treated with stretching exercises with a control group and noted a significant reduction in pain in the group treated with stretching exercises (Rovetta et al., 2009).

If the pain persists or is severe, the doctor may prescribe stronger painkillers, but again it must be mentioned that if symptoms become more severe with symptoms of strong chest pains, palpitations, sweating or fever, or severe shortness of breath, you should go to A&E and seek investigation.

In the majority of cases, costochondritis is a temporary condition, and the pain subsides within a few days or weeks. However, if the pain is severe or persists, it is crucial to see a doctor immediately.

Let’s look at our top five exercises for costochondritis:

1. Pec Stretch: Place your arms at 90 degrees, with your palms flat on the wall, and face towards a corner. Push your body into the corner keeping your hands in the same position. You will feel a stretch across your upper arms, front shoulders and chest.

2. Straight Arm Pec Stretch: Hook your fingers around a door frame or corner of a wall, and lean forwards creating a stretch across your upper arm, front shoulder and slightly into your chest. This exercise stretches the pectoral muscle.

3. Ice the Chest: Place an ice pack or frozen peas over your chest. Wrap it in a thin towel so its not too cold. Hold it here for the required time as recommended by your therapist.

4. Diaphragmatic Deep Breathing: Place one hand on your stomach, and the other on your chest. Take a deep breath in, and push your belly (and your hand) outwards. Try and keep the movement of your chest to a minimum, so you concentrate on the deep breathing. Relax your neck and shoulders as you breathe. This will help you to use your diaphragm, the main inspiratory muscle.

5. Mid-Scalene Sternocleidomastoid Stretch: Hook your fingers above your collar bone, and gently side-bend your neck to the opposite side. Hold the stretch. You should feel the stretch at the front/side of your neck. This exercise will help improve mobility to your neck.

If you are a therapist and like the exercises and information in this document, please go to and sign up to this amazing exercise prescription software.
If you are a patient and need some advice, treatment or a consultation, please go to We provide virtual and face-to-face appointments with our expert team.

If you want to buy any equipment seen on these articles, please go to

For more advice on Costochondritis, check out this page.