Winter weather can bring on colds and flu, along with their annoying symptoms such as coughing and sneezing.
If this weren’t bad enough, the repeated pressure and jarring of your body from coughing and sneezing could lead to pain in the ribs. Especially true among older people, this rib pain can vary from mild to severe and last days or weeks.
This article discusses how this pain can come about and what to do about it.
The three layers of intercostal muscles attach the ribs to each other and lie between them. Their function is to assist in breathing and stabilize the upper body. Like any muscles or tendons in the human body, these can be strained or injured.
Causes of Intercostal Muscle Strain
Many activities can cause a pull to the intercostal muscles such as straining while twisting, repetitive motions or falling but one of the most common reasons for straining the muscles around the ribs, especially in seniors, is coughing or sneezing.
The location of the pain can vary anywhere along the rib cage.
See Also: Work Related Emergencies: When to Come to the ER.
Since it can be difficult to pinpoint the location and cause, many people will fear a problem with their heart or lungs when they strain the intercostal muscles.
This is especially true in cases where the severity or location of the strain makes it difficult to breathe. If you have been coughing repeatedly or suffer from a sneezing attack, it is more likely that you have pulled one of these muscles.
Like any other muscle, overuse will lead to injury, whether the use is intentional or not.
Only a trip to the doctor can correctly diagnose the exact injury. Unfortunately, there is little that can be done about rib injuries except for wrapping the torso or prescribing something for the pain. Depending on the severity of the pull, relief can come in days or may take weeks.
If you have suffered an intercostal injury, only time will heal it, but there are some things you can do to relieve the pain and, at least, not prolong the damage.
How to Minimize the Pain of Intercostal Muscle Strain
- First, just as with any muscle injury, give it some rest.
- Avoid or treat your coughing and sneezing to eliminate further strain.
- Don’t pick up or carry heavy objects
- Avoid twisting your torso.
- Use ice or a cold compress to minimize swelling of the injured tissue.
- Steam and heat can also help relieve the discomfort, especially first thing in the morning.
- When sleeping, try to lay on the uninjured side if possible.
Due to the location and lack of any active treatment for intercostal muscle strain, these rib injuries can be annoying. Also, once you have injured one of these muscles, they are more susceptible to future trauma.
Be aware of the hazard of violent coughing or sneezing when you have a cold. Avoid any severe twisting of the torso and, hopefully, you can avoid or prevent one of these painful injuries.