Costovertebral joint sprain

A costovertebral joint sprain can occur after a traumatic injury to the neck or head. It is important to note that a dislocated vertebra involves displacement of one of the small-sized bones in the neck.

What are the indications?

  • Pain when the spine is moved, particularly side bending and twisting.
  • Pain or discomfort is triggered during deep breathing, sneezing and coughing
  • Pain is localized on one side of the spine and might radiate to the shoulder blade or chest
  • Diminished movement in the thoracic spine
  • Tenderness over the affected joint
    Costovertebral joint sprain

    Pain or discomfort is triggered during deep breathing, sneezing and coughing.

Possible causes of costovertebral joint sprain

A costovertebral joint sprain typically occurs after abrupt movement involving bending, twisting or overextension of the spine. It can occur occasionally due to repetitive twisting or bending movements.

The joints include the end of a rib and a flattened section of the body of the thoracic vertebrae. The cartilage is positioned amidst the 2 bones to cushion the joints. The ligament is responsible for holding the 2 bones together.

Torsional and compressive forces are applied to the joint during movement. In case these forces are higher than what the joint can endure, damage can occur to either ligaments. In some instances, the head of the rib might even dislocate from the joint.


In most cases of costovertebral joint sprains, they heal over time. There are also measures that can help hasten the healing process such as:

  • It is vital to rest from any activity that triggers the pain or discomfort.
  • Anti-inflammatory medications might be prescribed by the doctor to alleviate the pain and inflammation.
  • Application of ice can be beneficial in reducing the pain and inflammation. Each session should last for 15 minutes at a time at 3-4 times throughout the day.
  • Once the pain has settled, the individual should start mobility exercises such as side bending and twisting the joint to prevent stiffness.
  • A professional can recommend suitable exercises to strengthen the back muscles.

Other treatment options might be used such as mobilization, electrotherapy, acupuncture and soft tissue therapy.

Disclaimer / More Information

The information posted on this page on a costovertebral joint sprain is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to properly manage sprains, register for first aid training at one of our training centers located throughout Canada. The training centers are in Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Kelowna, Surrey, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax.



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