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Costovertebral Dysfunction / Rib dysfunction

Guide to Costovertebral Dysfunction

What are the symptoms of costovertebral dysfunction?

The Costovertebral joint is where your rib attaches to the spine, the term “Costovertebral joint dysfunction” describes the abnormal motion between the rib and the connection it has to the spine. The dysfunction involving the costovertebral joint complex is common and may cause pain in the chest and abdomen that is often overlooked.

Some of the symptoms that you may experience from a rib dysfunction may include:

  • Symptoms that may begin suddenly following explosive or unguarded movements such as rotating, coughing or sneezing
  • Pain that is felt in the back
  • Pain that can radiate to the front, along the rib and sometimes into the shoulder
  • One sided
  • Pain that gets worse with deep breathing, coughing or sneezing
  • Increased pain while bending forwards or twisting

What causes Costovertebral dysfunction?

Costovertebral dysfunction may happen as a result of trauma, postural strain or repetitive injury especially when compression or rotation occurs. It may occur suddenly after carrying heavy weights on the shoulders or after an accident. Patients who work prolonged hours with poor posture are more prone to developing rib dysfunction.

How is Costovertebral dysfunction diagnosed?

The diagnosis of a rib dysfunction will be based on the presenting symptoms and the completion of a complete physical examination which will include, orthopaedic, neurological and range of motion assessments which will determine the severity of the rib dysfunction and any problems it may be causing to the rest of the body. Our practitioners will try and eliminate other possible diagnoses that may have similar presentations so that a correct diagnosis can be reached.

How is costovertebral dysfunction / Rib dysfunction treated?

Conservative treatment has been shown to be a cost-effective option to treating rib dysfunctions and all the problems that arise from it. Some of the treatments that are used to treat a rib dysfunction include spinal mobilisation which leads to rapid recovery and is performed by a chiropractor or an osteopath. Other treatments such as myofascial release, acupuncture and corrective exercise can be prescribed by your practitioner depending on what they find and what would work best for you


Stochkendahl MJ, Sørensen J, Vach W, Christensen HW, Høilund-Carlsen PF, Hartvigsen J. Cost-effectiveness of chiropractic care versus self-management in patients with musculoskeletal chest pain. Open heart. 2016 May 1;3(1):e000334.

Scaringe JG, Ketner C. Manual methods for the treatment of rib dysfunctions and associated functional lesions. Topics in Clinical Chiropractic. 1999 Jan 1;6(3):20-38.

Hyde TE, Gengenbach MS, editors. Conservative management of sports injuries. Jones & Bartlett Learning; 2007.

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