I Can't Do Pushups Because of Costochondritis

Rib pain can make daily activities such as breathing, coughing or laughing quite painful. Costochondritis -- inflammation in the cartilage that connects your ribs to your breastbone -- is one cause of rib pain. This condition can also prevent you from performing exercises that use muscles in your chest, such as push-ups.

Rib pain can make exercising very painful. (Image: lzf/iStock/Getty Images)

Causes and Symptoms

Costochondritis often occurs without any clear cause. However, it can appear after injury, exercise or coughing spells. The hallmark symptom of this condition is sharp chest pain. This pain might decrease when you are resting and is aggravated with movement. Because chest pain can also be a sign of a life-threatening heart attack, see a doctor for an accurate diagnosis.


Costochondritis often gets better on its own if you avoid aggravating activities. However, it can take several weeks or more to fully resolve. Your doctor might suggest anti-inflammatory or pain-relieving medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), naproxen sodium (Aleve) or ibuprofen (Advil). Other treatments can include heat, massage and physical therapy.

Stretches can relieve pain caused by inflamed cartilage. (Image: Anchiy/iStock/Getty Images)


Gentle chest stretching can relieve discomfort and tightness that can develop with costochondritis. Remember to only stretch as far as you can without pain.

Step 1

Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart. Reach your arms behind your back and interlace your fingers.

Step 2

Depending on your flexibility, you might already feel a stretch in your chest. If not, slowly lift your arms up behind you until you feel a stretch across your chest.

Step 3

Hold this stretch for 20 to 30 seconds, then relax. Repeat three times.

The pectoralis muscles give your chest definition. (Image: kanzefar/iStock/Getty Images)

Costochondritis and Push-Ups

Push-ups target your pectoralis muscles on each side of your chest. These muscles attach to your breastbone. As a result, push-ups put additional pressure on your already inflamed cartilage if you have costochondritis. This exercise should be avoided until your symptoms have resolved.

Other chest strengthening exercises such as chest flys and bench pressing should also be avoided if you have costochondritis.

Tricep Push-ups

Once your pain has resolved, consider adjusting your push-up technique. Tricep push-ups put less pressure on your pectoralis muscles, which in turn can reduce strain on your previously injured cartilage. These push-ups are performed by moving your arms in, closer to your body.

Step 1

Lie on your stomach on a firm surface. Bend your elbows and slide your forearms under your upper body until your hands are positioned under your shoulders.

Step 2

Press up into a plank position, fully straightening your elbows. This is your starting position. Perform push-ups while keeping your arms next to your body.

Step 3

Repeat 10 times and work up to three sets in a row. Modify this exercise by performing push-ups on your knees to further reduce stress on your chest muscles.

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