Dysfunction of the rib joints on the back
Costovertebral pain / costotransverse pain

Pain in the upper back can have various causes. Sometimes it is a problem with the ribs that are attached to the spinal column along the back. This causes symptoms with various movements of the upper back and chest.

ribs posterior view back floating rib insertion

The ribs (costae) together form the chest or rib cage. Along the front of the body they are connected to the breast bone (sternum). Along the back of the body they are connected to the spinal column by means of joints. These joints are called the costovertebral and the costotransverse joints.

Description of the condition

If a costovertebral and/or costotransverse joint is affected, we refer to this as costovertebral and/or costotransverse pain. This can be explained more effectively as pain in the back caused by a problem with the rib joints.

Cause and origin

Signs & symptoms

  • Pain along the back of the (upper) back.
  • The pain can radiate forwards or sideways over the ribs.
  • Usually the symptoms are located on one side of the back, unless the rib joints on both sides are affected.
  • Pain when bending forwards or sideways with the upper back/chest.
  • Pain when rotating the upper back/chest.
  • Pressing on the rib (joint) makes the symptoms worse.

Diagnosis

Treatment

Advice


You can check your symptoms using the online physiotherapy check or make an appointment with a physiotherapy practice in your area.

ribs top view breast bone sternum costotransverse costotransversal joint

References
Fruth, S.J. (2006). Differential diagnosis and treatment in a patient with posterior upper thoracic pain. Phys Ther. 2006; 86:254-268.

ribs posterior view back floating rib insertion
ribs top view breast bone sternum costotransverse costotransversal joint

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