Man clutching his ribs due to intercostal muscle strain

Protecting your ribs: understanding intercostal muscle strain

Ouch! Have you ever experienced a sharp pain in your side that seems to take your breath away? If you’re wondering what causes this discomfort and how to prevent it, then you're in the right place. In this article, we explain all about intercostal muscle strain and ways you can protect your ribs.

Whether you're an active athlete, a fitness enthusiast, or simply curious about your body, we're here to provide insights into this common condition.

What is intercostal muscle strain?

Intercostal muscle strain is a painful condition that occurs when the muscles between your ribs become overstretched or torn. This can occur from vigorous physical activity, such as sports and weightlifting, or simply twisting or straining your torso abruptly.

Your intercostal muscles play a crucial role in supporting and stabilizing the rib cage during breathing and movement. When these muscles in your torso are twisted or strained, a sharp and sometimes debilitating injury called intercostal muscle strain can occur and hinder your daily activities.


How to sleep with intercostal muscle strain

Getting a good night's sleep is essential for your body's healing process, but it can be quite challenging when dealing with intercostal muscle strain.

Discomfort and pain can make finding a comfortable sleeping position difficult. However, with a few adjustments and helpful tips, you can still get the restful night of shuteye you need.

  • Pillow support. Elevating your upper body slightly can relieve pressure on your intercostal muscles. Place a pillow under your upper back and head to create a gentle incline. This can reduce strain on your ribcage and make breathing easier.
  • Side-sleeping position. Do you usually sleep on your side? Consider lying on the unaffected side to minimize direct pressure on the strained muscles. Place a pillow between your legs to support and maintain proper spinal alignment.
  • Body pillow hug. For those who prefer sleeping on their back, hugging a body pillow can provide extra support and cushioning to the affected area.
  • Heating pad. Before bed, get some relief from intercostal muscle strain by using a heating pad. Set it to a low or medium temperature and apply it to the affected area for 15-20 minutes. The gentle heat helps relax the muscles and improve blood circulation, promoting better sleep.
  • Gentle stretching. Before bed, try performing gentle stretching exercises targeting the chest and rib area. This can help relax and loosen the muscles, reducing tension and promoting better sleep.

If the pain persists or worsens, consult a healthcare professional at your local CityMD for further guidance.


Healing from intercostal muscle strain

Recovering from intercostal muscle strain requires time, patience, and proper care. While it may feel frustrating to be sidelined by pain, taking proactive steps can significantly speed up the healing process.

  • Rest and avoid strain. Give your body the rest it needs to recover. Avoid activities that exacerbate the pain and strain the intercostal muscles further.
  • Ice therapy. Applying an ice pack wrapped in a thin cloth to the affected area can help reduce inflammation and alleviate pain. Use ice for 15-20 minutes at a time, several times a day, especially during the initial stages of the injury.
  • Pain management. Over-the-counter pain medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, can help manage the pain and discomfort associated with intercostal muscle strain.
  • Gentle stretching and mobility exercises. Once the acute pain subsides, gradually incorporate gentle stretching and mobility exercises into your routine. These exercises can improve flexibility and prevent muscle stiffness, aiding in the healing process.
  • Physical therapy. If the pain persists or you're having trouble with movement, consider seeking guidance from a physical therapist. They can provide targeted exercises and techniques to promote healing, strengthen the intercostal muscles, and prevent future injuries.
  • Gradual return to activity. As you heal, slowly reintroduce activities and exercises that involve the intercostal muscles. Start with low-impact exercises and gradually increase intensity and duration as your pain subsides and strength improves. Listen to your body and avoid pushing yourself too soon.

Everyone's healing journey is different, so it's important to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice and guidance.


Treating strained muscles at CityMD

At CityMD, our dedicated team of medical professionals is here to support you. Whether you require a proper diagnosis, pain management strategies, physical therapy referrals, or other related services, our experienced staff can assist you.

Don't let intercostal muscle strain hold you back. Visit your local CityMD today and take the first step towards healing and returning to the activities you enjoy.

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