Costochondritis is the inflammation of the costal cartilage between the ribs and sternum. It is a self-limiting condition meaning that it does not usually progress to a stage where it can result in complications. In most cases, it will resolve over time with no treatment. However, in severe cases of costochondritis, the pain can be so intense that it will prompt a visit to the emergency room with the complaint of excruciating chest pain.
The costal cartilages of the first seven ribs run through to the sternum, while the costal cartilages of the other ribs connect to the costal cartilage of the seventh rib. Costochondritis more commonly affects the cartilages of the fourth to sixth ribs but any of the costal cartilages may be involved. Inflammation of the cartilage can affect the articulation of the cartilage with the rib and sternum. In some cases, there may actually be a slight tear of the costal cartilage.