Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

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Chest Wall Pain Anatomy

To better understand chest wall pain, it helps to understand the anatomy of the chest.

The chest includes the part of the trunk between the neck and the abdomen. The chest holds the heart and lungs, as well as the esophagus and large blood vessels that connect to the heart.

The chest wall consists of the bones, cartilage, muscles and ligaments that hold the contents of the chest. The rib cage is made up of the vertebrae, ribs and sternum.

The ribs are attached to the vertebrae in the back and the sternum in the front. Joints between the vertebrae, ribs and sternum allow the bones to move.

The chest wall is also made up of soft tissues:

  • Ligaments
  • Muscles
  • Nerves

Anatomy examples:
  • The muscles of the chest
  • The bones of the chest and the heart
  • The location of the rib-sternum joints in the chest
  • The sternum bone in the chest

Last Updated: Dec 7, 2010 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Chest Wall Pain References
  1. Ballas SK, Viscusi ER, Epstein KR. Management of acute chest wall sickle cell pain with nebulized morphine. Am J Hematol. 2004 Jun;76(2):190-1. [15164390]
  2. Disla E, Rhim HR, Reddy A, Karten I, Taranta A. Costochondritis. A prospective analysis in an emergency department setting. Arch Intern Med. 1994 Nov 14;154(21):2466-9. [7979843]
  3. Eslick GD, Fass R. Noncardiac chest pain: evaluation and treatment. Gastroenterol Clin North Am. 2003 Jun;32(2):531-52. [12858605]
  4. Karlson KA. Thoracic region pain in athletes. Curr Sports Med Rep. 2004 Feb;3(1):53-7. [14728915]
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