Tietze syndrome is a rare medical condition in which the cartilage connecting the upper ribs to the breastbone becomes swollen and painful, explains the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. The chest pain associated with Tietze syndrome can range from mild to severe.
The pain from Tietze syndrome sometimes radiates to the shoulders or arms, notes the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. Patients sometimes worry they are having a heart attack, but Tietze syndrome is not usually a dangerous condition, states KidsHealth. In many cases, doctors are unable to pinpoint a specific reason patients develop the syndrome, but it sometimes occurs as a result of strenuous coughing, exercise, lifting heavy objects or an injury in the chest region. The symptoms of Tietze syndrome usually disappear on their own without treatment, but they may recur for several weeks or months before permanently subsiding.
When doctors treat Tietze syndrome, their efforts are usually aimed at addressing the pain, explains KidsHealth. Measures that may help reduce the pain include taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, applying heat to the chest and reducing physical activity, states the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. When the chest cartilage becomes inflamed and painful in the absence of swelling, the condition is called costochondritis, explains Mayo Clinic. Like Tietze syndrome, the cause of costochondritis is usually unknown, and the pain typically resolves by itself.