Intercostal Muscle Strain from Coughing – Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

There might be some people who do not know what intercostal muscle strain is. But for athletic people, this might sound very common to them.

People who are physically active are said to be vulnerable to any form of muscle strains specifically to areas between the body’s ribs.

If your everyday activities involve bending your body, you might experience muscle strains. Twisting one’s body in an unexpected way may cause injury. Twisting your trunks excessively may possibly cause you intercostal muscle strain.

As you know, when you cough, you have a heavy burden on the muscles of the body because it is a strong and instinctive activity. If a cough is persistent, hacking and uncontrolled, you may experience a coughing muscle.

This can occur in any part of the body where a trunk is, especially it visible on the pectoral muscles and abdominal muscles. You can also get a muscle strain on the back.


What is a Muscle Strain?

People who might be suffering from pained muscles that cannot be healed with rest or muscle strain ointments might want to see the doctor know the severity of their muscle spasms. If you are feeling some sort of muscle spasm, you might mistake it with a simple form of fatigue; if you have done many chores throughout the day.

However, if it doesn’t pass immediately after having a few hours rest and you are feeling pain on your chest, ribs or shoulder, you might be suffering from intercostal muscle strain. This might be because of an intercostal muscle tear in your body; that is why you are experiencing an intercostal muscle spasm.

Your thoracic spine basically consists of twelve vertebrae. Each of this connects to the ribs. There are parts which are connected to your chest bone and the rest are not directly connected to your sternum.

Your intercostal muscles may also basically comprise of numerous muscle groups that are located in your ribs. Typically, its function is to stabilize your chest wall.

Your intercostal muscle may be strained due to several factors mainly because of your strenuous activity in sports. This involves the rapid twisting of your torso which might be associated in various forms of sports such as playing tennis or basketball.

Athletes could possibly have a torn muscle in the shoulder due to the physical activity they go through. They usually exert great pressure on their muscles making them susceptible to muscle spasm or worse, injury.

Intercostal Muscle Strain Symptoms

  • Severe or mild pain when you coughing
  • Stiff and soreness in the muscles
  • Difficult to breath
  • The pain worsens when you bend or twist the body

Intercostal muscle strain usually has three grading. These forms of grading may be due to the severity of the strained muscles and heal at different time span.

The grade three muscle strains are the severe form of intercostal muscle strain as there is an extensive damage on your muscle fibers and healing time may take for several weeks.

Symptoms of intercostal muscle strain commonly involve difficulty in breathing due to sharp and stabbing chest muscle strain as well as painful soreness and ache on the rib cage area due to a muscle strain in ribs.

The pain is heightened by side bending, twisting, and deep breathing. These symptoms might be experienced by individuals who play sports like racket sports, golf, baseball and the two former sports mentioned above.

Stretching your arm excessively and twisting your intercostal muscles always result in strain or injury. Other symptoms of intercostal muscle strain include swelling because of intercostal muscle tear and tenderness at the area of the tear.

Symptoms of intercostal muscle stress are usually similar to symptoms of fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is a form of the medical disorder that associates lasting widespread pain. It is a painful and aggravated response to pressure.

If you are feeling severe chest pain, you might wrong it to symptoms of fibromyalgia. If you are feeling severe muscle spasm, it is advisable to seek doctors’ advice.

Treatments of Intercostal Muscle Strain from Coughing

Intercostal muscles pain treatment usually comes in different form. The kind of treatment for intercostal muscle pain depends on its severity.

Often, if you are experiencing mild muscle pain it could be treated by ice application, exercise, pain medication and rest.


If your daily routine involves engaging in your sports activities, it would be advisable to take some rest and stop your involvement in sports for a while to heal your muscle spasms. Limiting the movement of your torso should adhere.

However, it would not be advisable to take a complete bed rest for two days or more as not doing any physical activities for a long time can make your muscle tight and could lose your trunk’s flexibility. This could also cause a delay in your healing.

Ice Application

Another intercostal muscle pain treatment is in the form of ice application. A minor muscle strain may be treated by ice pack application for about 20 minutes or more for three or four times a day.

It is important to bear in mind to wrap the ice pack with a clean towel so that you could avoid frostbite. You could possibly do these for 1 or 2 days or until the swelling and pain in your muscle subside.


Of course, having gentle exercises for stretching your tight trunk and intercostal muscle could be of great help. Your physical therapist or doctor would probably determine when you can perform some muscle strengthening exercises.

Light exercises for your intercostal muscle spasm may include bending your trunk and intercostal muscles side by side.

Side bending with the trunk rotation movement could be another way to stretch your affected muscles. Still, it would still be good to ask your doctor or therapist what exercise would be safe and good for your intercostal strain.

Pain Medication

You may probably opt for some pain medication such as those over the counter pain relievers. Taking this kind of medication is more advisable with the prescription of doctors or go signal from your health provider.

Your healing time, as said, may depend on the severity of your injury. Often, severe muscle strains may take five or six weeks to be treated.

You will also need to find a cure for a cough or to control your cough. When you stop coughing, the affected area will help to rest and cure


Any sport that would require you to exert more pressure on your chest or ask you to dramatically move your abdomen would increase your risk of having strained intercostal muscles. Further, any household chores that require the same effort would typically give you the same result.

These might possibly result in an injury that is hard to ignore. Focusing on your muscle pain treatment is very much important. With the use of various therapies such as having rest, avoiding strenuous activities, applying ice to the affected area and taking medication could be of great help in treating your intercostal muscle strain

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