Rib Pain

Intercostal Neuralgia

What is intercostal neuralgia?

Intercostal neuralgia is a condition that causes pain along the intercostal nerves. These nerves are located between your ribs. Ribs are long, slender bones that curve around your chest to create your rib cage. The rib cage moves with every breath taken. The top 10 ribs on both sides of your body attach to your thoracic (midback) spine and breastbone (sternum). The bottom two ribs attach to the spine only. These ribs are  called the “floating” ribs. The intercostal areas between the ribs contain muscles and nerves.  Intercostal nerves can become  inflamed due to sports injuries, trauma, coughing, slips and falls, etc., resulting in intercostal neuralgia.


Intercostal neuralgia may produce sporadic episodes of acute pain or pain that is dull and constant. The pain is often described as stabbing, tearing, sharp, spasm-like, tender, aching or gnawing. It typically feels like the pain wraps around your upper chest in a band-like pattern. The pain may intensify during exertion or with sudden movements involving the upper body, such as coughing,sneezing, or laughing. Intercostal neuralgia is often associated with injury or inflammation of the nerves, muscles, cartilage and ligaments of the rib cage and midback.  Common causes include pregnancy, chest or rib injury, surgery, obesity,   sports injury, and shingles.


The main symptom of intercostal neuralgia is pain in the rib cage area, often described as
stabbing, sharp, spasm-like, tearing, tender, aching or gnawing. The pain may wrap around your chest or radiate from the back toward the front of your chest in a band-like pattern. Sometimes you may feel pain uniformly along the length of your ribs. The pain is aggravated by sudden, jerky movements, and is relieved with inactivity.  Point tenderness is noticeable over the misaligned rib head, close to the spine.


CHIROPRACTIC is very effective in the treatment of Intercostal Neuralgia or rib pain.  Examination of the chest and mid back starts with light touch, hands on, palpation of the Thoracic spine, Rib cage, Sternum, and musculature in order to determine the Rib head that is involved.  Low volt TENS, ULTRASOUND, MASSAGE, is used to decrease the amount of inflammation present.  A gentle CHIROPRACTIC adjustment will restore normal mechanics and re-align the Rib with the Vertebrae.  Patients are told to rest, apply ICE to the area, avoid any physical activity for a couple of days.  Normally, Intercostal Neuralgia will subside with 3-4 CHIROPRACTIC treatments.  If the pain persists, the CHIROPRACTOR advise the patient to see their MD to rule out Shingles, and other non mechanical causes.

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