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I Can't Do Pushups Because of Costochondritis

author image Sarka-Jonae Miller
Sarka-Jonae Miller has been a freelance writer and editor since 2003. She was a personal trainer for four years with certifications from AFAA and NASM. Miller also worked at 24 Hour Fitness, LA Fitness and as a mobile trainer. Her career in the fitness industry begin in 2000 as a martial arts, yoga and group exercise instructor. She graduated cum laude from Syracuse University.
I Can't Do Pushups Because of Costochondritis
Pain from costochondritis can mimic a heart attack. Photo Credit BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images

Costochondritis is a condition characterized by inflammation in the cartilage of the rib cage. Cartilage is a rubbery connective tissue. Costochondritis mainly affects the cartilage that connects the ribs at the sternum, or breastbone. The ribs move every time you take a breath, making even this most simple activity painful. More strenuous movements, such as pushups, can cause significant pain. Although some exercise may help, avoiding pushups is likely a necessary part of having this condition.

All of a Sudden

Costochondritis may be related to a trauma, such as moving furniture or strenuous exercise. Doctors do not know the specific cause, but many people who develop costochondritis do so following physical activity. A viral infection or stress on the breastbone are other possible causes. Costochondritis pain generally increases when you move the ribs or pull on the cartilage that connects to the breastbone, such as when you cough, sneeze or even breathe deeply. Pushups may do the same thing because the pectoral muscles connect to the breastbone. Costochondritis may be temporary or chronic.

Chest Presses

Pushups may not be possible, but you do not have to avoid exercise entirely. Exercise that does not make your pain worse is allowed. Isometric chest presses work the chest muscles without movement. Isometrics are a static muscular contraction. To perform an isometric chest press, bend your elbows at your sides and clasp your hands in front of your abdomen. Press your palms together for 10 to 15 seconds, relax and then repeat two to three times. Perform isometrics three days a week to improve strength and muscle tone.

Chest Flyes

The chest fly is another chest exercise that may not hurt. Chest flies use a different movement than pushups to strengthen the pectorals. Use a resistance band to perform chest flies by wrapping the middle of the band around a stationary object. Grip an end of the band in each hand and open your arms to your sides with your back to the object. Pull the arms together, keeping them parallel to the floor. Breathe out as you bring your arms forward and breathe in as you open your arms outward again.

Alternate Exercises

Gentle exercise is beneficial for costochondritis, such as swimming and walking. Physical activity makes you feel good and helps you stay healthy. Stop and rest any time you feel pain. Avoid repeating any exercise that increases pain. Exercise and rest are two ways you can improve costochondritis on your own. Also, use a heating pad on the part of your rib cage that hurts a few times each day to relieve pain. Use a low heat setting.

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