How to Sleep with Intercostal Muscle Strain

How to Sleep with Intercostal Muscle Strain

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Whether you’re working out too immensely or have just recovered from bronchitis and severe coughing, it’s common to experience rib muscle pain, which may also affect breathing. But if there are other complications and it feels excruciating, then it could be an intercostal muscle strain.

How to sleep with intercostal muscle strain? This simple guide will provide you with enough information to understand this injury, including some wellness tips.

Intercostal Muscle Strain Causes

Intercostal Muscle Strain Causes

An intercostal muscle strain occurs when the intercostal muscles between the ribs are stretched, pulled, or partially torn. One of the most natural causes of this injury is doing repetitive movements at extreme pressure. Below are other reasons of intercostal muscle strain that you need to be aware of:

  • Chest injuries due to hard-hit and fall.
  • Extreme twisting of the upper body.
  • Extreme twisting of the upper body.
  • Coughing.
  • Contact sports that have an impact blow.
  • Overhead reaching such as painting the ceiling.
  • Prolonged stretching.

Breathing usually is painful when you have intercostal muscle pain, but there is a possibility that you also have pneumonia. It’s essential to consult your doctor to know what’s causing your painful breathing. You will need to undergo X-rays and other tests to see if there are blood clots and other complications in your lungs.

Intercostal Muscle Strain Exercises to Avoid

It’s essential to keep your muscles strong to prevent intercostal muscle strain from coming back. However, there are some strenuous exercises that you need to avoid if you’re trying to heal from this severe injury. For instance, lifting weights and twisting exercises should be avoided in the meantime.

Moreover, you need to avoid playing contact sports such as baseball, tennis, golf, and rowing. You should not perform any stretching exercises without expert supervision from your physical therapist or doctor. In case you feel more pain or worse symptoms, immediately stop doing exercises.

Intercostal Muscle Strain Treatment


For mild intercostal muscle strain, home treatment is the best way to recover from the injury. Besides, there’s no better place to relax while nursing a strained muscle than your home. Here are some options you can choose from when doing a home treatment for intercostal muscle strain:

  • Use a cold pack on the afflicted area then apply heat therapy. Some of the most common heat therapies you can use include adhesive heat wrap, heating pad, or warm bath. You can easily order heating pads and cold packs online if you can’t go out.
  • Limit your physical activities within the recovery period to help your muscles quickly heal.
  • Reduce pain and swelling with pain medications recommended by your doctor. Over-the-counter painkillers are available such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen.
  • For painful breathing, hold your pillow against your injured intercostal muscle. However, splinting is only a temporary remedy at home. More often than not, difficulty breathing warrants immediate medical attention.

If you consult your doctor, you may get the following recommendations as to additional options for intercostal muscle strain home remedy:

  • If the treatments mentioned earlier, don’t work for you, you can inject corticosteroids and lidocaine to reduce swelling and pain.
  • Undergo physical therapy to recover your muscles from injury.
  • Use muscle relaxants to soothe spasms and muscle pain.

Your doctor could provide you with an appropriate treatment plan that will work for your condition.

How Long Does It Take for Intercostal Muscle to Heal

For mild intercostal muscle strain, it can heal in just a matter of days. Moderate strain can take up to 7 weeks to heal completely. However, severe intercostal muscle strain with torn muscles may need more time to heal. Generally, most strains can improve in just 6 weeks, depending on the treatment and recovery capacity.

Here’s how you determine the severity of your muscle strain:

  • Grade 1 is a mild strain that involves 5% of damaged muscle fibers. It only affects a minimal portion of your body and takes up to 3 weeks to recover.
  • Grade 2 involves a broader range of damaged muscle fibers. However, the muscles are not severely damaged, so you won’t completely lose the sense of motion. The average healing time may take up to 3 months.
  • Grade 3 is the complete damage of your muscle fibers. The best way to recover from this injury is to undergo surgery.

You can prevent muscle strains after recovery through warm-ups and stretching exercises before performing any straining activities.

Is Massage Good for Intercostal Muscle Strain

Massage works well for intercostal muscle strains by relaxing tight muscles that cause painful breathing and loss of motion. If you don’t have a therapist, you can self-massage at home. Use your fingers or thumb to massage the strain. Some techniques you can use include pressure-motion, precise massage stroke, or the ischemic compression technique.

How Do You Relax Your Intercostal Muscles

Press your finger or thumb into the strained muscle between the ribs. Check the area for any sensitive points, start from the breastbone to the rib lines then back to the rib cage side. Massage the vulnerable points gently several times by moving your thumb around the spot. Avoid sliding over your skin when moving it over the muscles.

Can A Chiropractor Help with Intercostal Muscle Strain

A chiropractor can treat mild intercostal muscle strain within 4 to 6 weeks. On the other hand, proper chiropractic can also be applied to severe strains, but they will take more time to recover fully. Getting back on your feet can be faster when you work with a professional chiropractor or massage practitioner.

Your chiropractor or therapist will help you determine the ideal sleep positions to avoid triggering your sensitive points. Below are some positions you can consider when sleeping with intercostal muscle strain:

  • Maintain your strain in a neutral position.
  • Elevate your injury.
  • Avoid putting pressure on the injured part while sleeping.
  • Stretch out your muscles to keep it flexible.

It’s crucial to determine the best treatment to reduce the inflammation with an inflamed nerve on your rib cage. Whether you’re new to this injury or suffering and recovering a few times already, talk to your doctor to reduce the symptoms and manage future complications.

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