Pulled Rib Muscle Treatment - Body Pain Tips

Pulled Rib Muscle Treatment

Though not usually a serious ailment, a pulled rib muscle is no fun either, whether it is a slight pull or a severe one. A pulled muscle in another part of our bodies, such as an arm or a leg, can often be placed in a wrap, or in extreme cases a cast, to prevent movement and give some stability which can ease the pain during recovery. No so with the rib muscles.


Our Ribs And The Rib Muscles

We have 10 pairs of ribs which attach to the spine in back and our sternum in front, plus two other pairs, the lower ribs, which only attach to the spine. When we suffer a pulled rib muscle, the muscle involved is going to be one of the intercostal muscles, the muscles between the ribs. A pulled intercostal muscle often occurs when the chest and rib cage moves suddenly or violently in a lateral direction. Tennis and football players are especially prone to a pulled rib muscle, though any physical activity requiring quick movements, especially movements that are not well planned, can cause this condition.

There are three levels of grades of muscle strain or pull. A grade one injury is one where the pull is not severe enough to limit activity but may require a few days of rehabilitation. A grade two pulled rib muscle will often be fairly painful, though not disabling. A grade three pulled muscle, on the other hand, can be very painful and can be disabling for quite some time. In addition, recovery may be quite slow, requiring a few weeks, and in some cases, if the pull has been severe enough to tear ligaments or tendons, several months.

It Will Hurt To Breathe

One of the main problems associated with a pulled rib muscle is that the rib cage cannot be put in a wrap or cast to protect the affected muscle from movement. A cast, or even a tight wrap around the chest, which normally expands and contracts as we breathe, would be a very unhealthy situation for the lungs, and for that matter for the heart as well. An immobilized chest, while keeping the pain away, could easily result in pneumonia, in turn placing a great deal of stress on the heart. For that reason, treatment of a pulled rib muscle very often consists of pain medication together with being advised to “tough it out”, and not to sneeze. In extreme situations, a cast or wrap may be called for, but the patient will be under close supervision of a doctor during the recovery period should complications arise.

Initial Treatment

Immediately following a muscle pull, ice applications are recommended. This will keep the swelling and any internal bleeding down, although bleeding is seldom of much concern.  Anti-inflammatory medication may be prescribed for a grade two pull and certainly for a grade three pull. As soon as is possible, gentle stretching and exercising of the affected muscle or muscle group should be undertaken. One has to proceed slowly with this, and if it is at all painful one will generally be quite willing to do so. Stretching and exercising, when possible, is an important part of muscle rehabilitation.


Proper warm-ups and stretching before beginning strenuous activity can go long ways towards preventing a pulled rib muscle, as can any program or regimen which exercises and strengthens the muscle group. In spite, one ‘s best efforts, and no matter how diligent one has been in working to prevent such an injury, it can still happen. This is the cold comfort of course for one who has already suffered a pulled muscle, but there are those things we learn the hard way from time to time.

Related: What To Do For a Pulled Hip Muscle

Pulled Rib Muscle Treatment, Last Update: 4/6/2017

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