Intercostal Muscles Strain : Chest Pain or NOT? Simple stretching exercises to ease your pain.
Updated: May 28
Intercostal Muscles Strain, is a condition that tends to present itself as a chest pain.
This is mainly due to the location of these muscles. For mild cases, more than often, stretching can help to ease the pain and promote recovery.
A study (Fruergaard et. al.) on chest pain cases presented to emergency department found that, 38% of those cases are related to heart condition, while the rest are due to gastric reflux (30%), musculoskeletal pain (28%), lung related conditions (2%), and others (2%).
Intercostal muscles are muscles that attached to our ribs and connect the ribs to one another. They are present at both the front and back of your upper body.
Intercostal muscles move our ribs up and down, to create changes of the pressure within our thoracic cavity, which in turns, drawing the air in and out of our lung. In a simple way, intercostal muscles (along with other muscles) help us to breath (De Troyer A et al).
How do I know if my chest pain is caused by intercostal muscles strain instead of other condition(s)?
Knowing that the main function of intercostal muscles is to help with breathing, one of the complaining symptoms that bring our attention to intercostal muscle strain is pain aggravated by breathing. Most of the time, deep breathing.
Another complaining symptom that link to intercostal muscle strain is pain aggravated by specific body movement, like turning your body or bending side way.
If the muscles strain happened at the upper back, the pain usually aggravated more when u bend forward and deep breath. If happened at the front, pain usually aggravated more when u arc your upper chest and deep breath.
Most of the time, gentle but progressive stretching exercise at home may slowly ease the pain and promote self-recovery. For injury or pain that interfere your life and causing great discomfort, or you are not sure if it is due to intercostal muscles strain, you should seek professional advice from your physiotherapist or doctor.
Will I recover from Intercostal Muscle Strain and What Causes this condition?
The recovery depends on varies factors. What we concern the most is not just the injury itself but what lead to the injury. For example, a forward head posture, a kyphotic back, or a tight pectolaris muscles, can be a risk factor. If this is not addressed, the injury will keep coming back. A potential muscles imbalance can also put you at risk of having these injuries.
A good rehabilitation session should not just focus on treating the injury itself but finding out what lead to the injury. By addressing the underlying risk factor(s), we can prevent the recurrent of the injury and prevent it in becoming a chronic problem.
Follow the link below for simple stretches for mid intercostal muscle strain
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