Costovertebral dysfunction

Within your spine there are several different joints including intervertebral joints between each vertebra and costovertebral joints. The costovertebral joints are the joints connecting the thoracic vertebrae and the ribs.

During sports injuries the cartilage or ligaments that act as support for the joints become damaged. Excessive stretching or compressive stretching forces on the costovertebral joints may occur if there is any movement involving the spine and rib cage.

What is costovertebral dysfunction?

Costovertebral dysfunction can also be referred to as a costovertebral sprain or a costovertebral joint injury. If a force on the costovertebral joint is too high, joint injury may occur and this may include cartilage or connective tissue damage.

What causes costovertebral dysfunction?

Costovertebral dysfunction is often a result of excessive arching, lifting, twisting or bending movements.

You are more likely to develop costovertebral dysfunction if you have: poor posture, live a sedentary lifestyle, poor core stability, muscle tightness/weakness, mid-back stiffness, or you do a lot of lifting, bending or sitting.

What are the symptoms of costovertebral dysfunction?

There are several different symptoms of costovertebral dysfunction with the main symptom being pain in the chest or upper back and also includes:

  • Pain particularly with sneezing or deep breathing or coughing
  • Pain when twisting or bending or any other slight spinal movement
  • Decreased movement of your middle back (thoracic spine)
  • Tender joint when palpated

The symptoms may be experienced immediately when doing the activity that causes the costovertebral dysfunction but you can also feel it the next morning or a few hours later. The pain is often felt on one side of the body and you may experience muscle spasms.

How is costovertebral dysfunction diagnosed?

Your physiotherapist will carry out a full subjective and objective examination to determine if it is costovertebral dysfunction or something else that is causing your symptoms. A scan such as an MRI may confirm diagnosis or rule out any other causes for your symptoms.

What treatment can Farrell Physiotherapy offer for costovertebral dysfunction?

There are several different treatment options for costovertebral dysfunction. Following your physiotherapy assessment you will be given a tailored treatment programme based on your lifestyle and goals and treatment will vary based on the severity of your condition and your symptoms.

Treatment may include:

  • Joint mobilisation
  • Soft tissue massage
  • Ultrasound
  • Acupuncture
  • Education and advice
  • Flexibility exercises
  • Strengthening exercises including core stability
  • Postural advice
  • Pilates
  • Ergonomic assessment
  • Activity modification advice

Benefit of physiotherapy for costovertebral dysfunction?

There are several benefits of seeking physiotherapy for costovertebral dysfunction and our aim is to get you back to your best in the shortest space of time. The different benefits you receive will be based on your symptoms and goals.

Physiotherapy aids:

  • Reduced pain
  • Increased range of movement
  • Increased strength
  • Improved posture
  • Safer workstation
  • Education around your condition

If you would like to book an assessment or enquire further, please call 01245 830280 or e-mail: