intercostal muscle strain

How to treat intercostal muscle strain

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Intercostal muscle strain is a condition that results to chest pain with movement of the upper body, twisting, breathing, sneezing and coughing. An intercostal muscle is muscles found between the ribs and attaches the ribs together. The muscles functions for the protection of the chest silhouette, for easy relaxation and contraction of the chest wall especially for breathing. And also make the chest stable.

The intercostal muscles are divided in layers, the external, internal and innermost muscles and when these areas become strained it results to breathing difficulties and pain.


  • Stretching of the arm while playing tennis
  • Rotational movement of the upper body especially playing contact sports
  • Sudden twisting of the chest or bending the upper body
    intercostal muscle strain
    Apply hot and cold therapy on the area.
  • Strong activities which puts excessive amounts of pressure on the ribcage such as a strong twisting of the upper body
  • Swinging of the upper arm pulls the rib cage such as playing golf, badminton, tennis.
  • Direct chest wall impact due to vehicular accidents, work and sports injuries
  • Loud and sudden coughing and sneezing
  • Lifting heavy objects
  • Extending the hand beyond the range of movement for reaching an object


  • Severe and constant pain in the area of the chest wall
  • Sprained muscle pain
  • Swelling and Tenderness of the area
  • Severe and intense pain
  • Pain with palpitations
  • Shortness of breath or dyspnea
  • Stiffness of the tender chest wall area
  • Pain after performing strenuous activities
  • Pain when exhaling and inhaling
  • Inflammation and swelling of the muscle

Treatment of an intercostal muscle strain

  • Take plenty of rest. Avoid activities that result to pain in the affected area for rapid healing.
  • Take the prescribed over-the-counter muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatory medications to reduce the pain and the inflammation.
  • Apply hot and cold therapy on the area. Use a cold pack wrapped in a towel before placing in the area for a minimum of 20 minutes at a time daily for the first 2 days. After 48 hours start applying heat on the affected ribs. Wrap heating pad in a towel and place in the area for at least 20 minutes at a time. Heat loosens stiffness and spasms of the muscles and for proper flow of blood in the area.
  • Fill a bathtub with warm water; add 2 cups of Epsom salts. Mix well until salt is totally dissolved and then soak the body in the solution for at least 15 or more minutes. Epsom salt is rich with magnesium needed for proper functioning of muscles and the warm bath relaxes the body.
  • Perform breathing exercises such as meditation to lessen stress.

Disclaimer / More Information

The material posted on this page on an intercostal muscle strain is for learning purposes only. Learn to properly manage the injury by taking a first aid and CPR class with one of our training providers.


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