Signs and Symptoms of an Intercostal Muscle Strain

Signs and Symptoms of an Intercostal Muscle Strain

Common Causes of Intercostal Muscle Strain

Intercostal muscle strains don’t usually occur during regular activity. Instead, they are caused by weakened muscles, overexertion, direct trauma such as a fall or car accident, a blow such as a touch sport like hockey, or repetitive torso twists.

An intercostal muscle strain will produce pain and tightness in the chest and or ribs that can increase in intensity with the chest, arms, and torso movement or with deep breathing. Chest pain with this type of muscle strain is localized over the intercostal muscles, where they attach to the ribs. 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.

What is Intercostal Muscle Strain?

Your intercostal muscle is the muscle between your ribs. It runs between the inner and outer surfaces of the rib cage and is responsible for expanding and contracting your chest. The intercostal muscles have three layers: internal intercostals, innermost intercostals, and external intercostals.

A strain occurs when the muscle is torn or overstretched. It causes severe pain, stiffness, and swelling in the affected area.

Muscle strains often cause chest pain. Intercostal muscles account for between 21 and 49 percent of musculoskeletal chest pain.

Common Causes of Intercostal Muscle Strain

The intercostal muscles are the most commonly affected muscle groups in musculoskeletal causes of chest pain. Intercostal muscle strains can result from a sudden increase in activity or increased exertion and physical demands of the chest and upper body that can result from:

  • Heavy lifting with twisting of the upper body
  • Exercises that involve repetitive twisting or stretching, especially if performed quickly
  • Sports like rowing, golfing, and tennis that require repetitive upper body force
  • Activities like painting a ceiling, chopping wood, or shoveling snow
  • Forceful and repeated coughing
  • Injury to the chest

What are the symptoms of Intercostal Muscle Strain?

The symptoms of an intercostal muscle strain are:

  • Tightness of the muscle: The injured muscle may feel tight whenever you reach, twist, or breathe.
  • Tenderness: The spot of the strain connecting your ribs will feel sore when it is touched.
  • Pain: Pain usually occurs with movement and deep breathing. It gets worse during physical activity and increases in intensity within three to five days after you strain the muscle.
  • Swelling: An inflamed muscle will become swollen and painful.
  • Breathing: A muscle strain can make it difficult to breathe. You may feel short of breath and have difficulty taking a deep breath. You may also feel less air moving in and out of your lungs than usual.

When to go to the ER for Intercostal Muscle Strain?

Intercostal muscle strains can be difficult to identify because chest pain can result from various causes. If your chest pain lasts more than three days, it is best to schedule an appointment with a healthcare provider to determine a diagnosis.

Intercostal muscle strains are generally not very serious, but other forms of chest pain can be. Suppose you have experienced a fall or direct trauma to your chest. In that case, you must see a medical professional make sure no bones were fractured or dislocated. Seeing a healthcare provider can help rule out other conditions to confirm that your chest pain is only from a muscle injury.

When you feel strained in your intercostal muscle, you will likely have to visit an emergency room. Are you looking for an emergency care center in Dallas, Texas? Look no further than ER of Texas. We are a 24-hour emergency room that provides compassionate and quick medical treatment for Intercostal Muscle Strain.



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