intercostal muscle strain

How to Treat and Prevent Intercostal Muscle Strains

April 17, 2019

A muscle strain occurs when a muscle gets pulled, stretched or torn and any form of strain on any of the layers may result in problems with breathing and to some level of pain. These kinds of strains are some of the most common causes of chest pains and evidence suggests that almost 21 to 49 percent of chest pain of individuals are caused by intercostal strain.


Intercostal Muscle Strain

Intercostal muscles are an individual’s muscles found between his or her ribs and they generally serve the purpose of linking them with each other. These muscles help the upper portion of our bodies to be more stable and contributes to the overall breathing process. Intercostal muscles are composed of three different layers identified as the innermost intercostal muscles, internal intercostal muscles, and external intercostals.

There are many reasons or causes as to why an intercostal muscle gets strained. The twisting movements of our bodies can result in intercostal muscle strain. A sudden or slowly building intercostal injury caused by the repetition of certain movements may bring about pain as well.

Some physical movements that can contribute to an intercostal muscle strain include the ribcage getting hit such as during locomotive accidents. Certain sports like baseball, tennis, and golf may also contribute to the strain. Other activities include excessive sneezing or coughing, chopping of firewood, twisting during lifts, and overextending the arms like when painting the ceiling.


How to Identify an Intercostal Muscle Strain

Intercostal muscle strain symptoms can be pretty straightforward and easily identified. Listed below are some of these symptoms:

  • Pain. Individuals with intercostal muscle strain may feel the pain that may be described as being sharp or it may also gradually build up. Individuals will more likely to experience or feel the pain more during movements that require twisting movements. The pain associated with intercostal muscle strain may also be felt while sneezing, coughing, breathing in deeply, stretching and twisting.
  • Difficulty breathing. Due to the pain caused by intercostal muscle strain, people with the said condition may find it difficult to breathe and may, therefore, resort to shorter and shallower breaths which can further result to the individual feeling certain shortness of breath.
  • Tenderness. The portion of the rib cage where the intercostal muscle strain occurred would feel tender when touched
  • Swelling. Intercostal Muscle strains will usually result in inflammation and swelling and this may physically manifest between and around the area of the affected ribs.
  • The tightness of the muscles. Breathing, twisting or sneezing may make the individual feel the stiffness of the muscles and ribs affected.

It is still best for patients to seek further medical assistance if one of the aforementioned symptoms are present or are felt as they may point to other more serious medical conditions. Healthcare professionals can easily determine the real cause of these symptoms through a medical assessment and check-up of the patient.


Remedies for Intercostal Muscle Strain

while waiting for their doctor’s scheduled appointment or check-up, patients who think they may have intercostal muscle strain can do some home remedies or treatments to lessen the pain and improve their current quality of life. Enumerated are some of the following remedies that patients may try out to treat or alleviate the symptoms of intercostal muscle strain:

OTC Painkillers

People can take over the counter anti-inflammatories such as acetaminophen and some painkillers like naproxen and ibuprofen while waiting for their doctor’s appointment. It must be pointed out though, that taking painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs should be moderated and should be based on package instructions or doctor’s orders as overmedicating may lead to other more serious medical conditions and health concerns.

Trying out Hot or Cold Therapy

Using cold therapies can reduce the pain and inflammation caused by intercostal muscle strains. This can be applied to the affected area in a cyclical schedule of 20 minutes duration each for two (2) days straight. People can opt to use different methods for this such as an ice-filled plastic bag covered in cloth, a cold pack gel compound, or a simple ice bag. After the first (2) days, patients suffering from intercostal muscle strains may want to consider using heat to relax and loosen the injured muscles and ribs. Similar to the cold therapy, patients are advised to apply a damp towel or a heating pad with a cyclical pattern for 20 minutes interval per application.

Trying Epsom Salt Soaks

Patients with Intercostal Muscle strains are also advised to try taking a warm relaxing bath or soaking in a mixture of magnesium sulfate and Epsom salts. Drug stores carry Epsom salts for sale or these Epsom salts may be purchased via online stores for ease and convenience.

Adding 2 cups of Epsom salt to a patient’s bath and soaking in the aforementioned mixture for around 15 minutes will usually help in alleviating the symptoms of Intercostal Muscle Strains. While these may not significantly reduce pain, the magnesium can definitely aid in muscle relaxation.

Intercostal Muscle Pain