Intercostal Muscle Strain

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    May 15, 2008 12:16 AM GMT
    I developed bronchitis about 6 weeks ago, and the cough lasted for about 4 weeks. Unfortunately, on one of the last days of coughing I ended up pulling one of my intercostal muscles between ribs 8 and 9, and possible 9 and 10, too, all on my right side. It's been 2.5 weeks now, and still hurts almost as bad as at the beginning. I haven't slowed down in my workouts at all, except that I've been skipping some of my cardio due to the pain with really deep breathing.

    Anyone had this before? How long am I looking at before it gets better? Anything I should be doing to accelerate the process? (Not working out is NOT an option I'm willing to consider for such a minor injury. The pain is annoying, not crippling.) So far, 800MG of ibuprofen makes the pain go about 90% away, and massage helps a little. I haven't tried ice yet, but heat didn't do a whole lot. Tonight I'm trying a trick I read about online and rubbing the contents of Advil gelcaps on the area--topical NSAIDs are used in Europe and recently became approved in the US. Here's hoping it works.
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    May 15, 2008 1:14 AM GMT
    A damaged muscle can take as long as a bone to heal. Assuming you let it heal. Here endeth the lesson...
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    May 15, 2008 1:38 AM GMT
    Damn, at my age I'm looking at 4-8 weeks then. Kids heal their bones so grown-ups take so long.

    I am letting it heal. I don't try and work through the pain, hence the skipped cardio. None of my weight sets seem to make it hurt while I do them, which is why I haven't cut back. I really don't want to take time off, because the gym is my relaxation/sanity/de-stress time, and I really need that with medical school kicking my ass every day.

    Oh, and the topical advil gel worked great!
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    May 15, 2008 1:57 AM GMT
    No doc here, but I don't think there's much you can do for muscular sprain/strain/pulls except just wait for the body to heal itself. Ibuprofen is good for symptoms and ice can reduce swelling on muscles that can be reached on the surface, but these are just working around the edges.

    I think the only thing that might actually accelerate the healing is a good massage therapist to help with the circulation and help flush out the waste products generated in the healing process. But that can be a bit expensive for most folks.

    Good luck, but in any case, you're looking at weeks to a months before the body finishes repairing significant muscle damage. Sounds annoying, but your attitude should be respect and support for the miracle that your body is performing over those weeks to puts things right without much help. Don't get cranky -- that's bad for healing!
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    May 15, 2008 4:40 AM GMT
    A muscle strain happens when the muscle fiber is stretched beyond its normal capacity. The normal thing to do is rest that muscle to allow it to heal. Since not breathing isn't an option, you're going to have to take it easy. Everytime that muscle stretches out, it's going to get aggravated again and delay the healing process.
    If you must work out, and it appears you must; anti-inflammatories can help, so can icing the area--this slows down the inflammatory response. I would recommend "ice massage". Take a couple styrofoam (it's gotta be styrofoam) cups and fill them 3/4 full with water. Freeze them and then peel back the top exposing some of the ice. The foam on the bottom keeps your fingers from freezing. Gently rub the area in a circular motion. You will need to do this for about 20 minutes. It will be uncomfortable for the first 5 or so, but then your skin will go numb. Don't ice longer than 20 minutes or your body will start to shunt more blood to the area to warm it up, defeating the purpose of icing.

    Another "trick" would be to follow this with heat for 20 minutes and then ice again for 20 minutes. The contrast stimulates blood flow to help the area heal. Always end with ice.
    Good luck
  • GQjock

    Posts: 11649

    May 15, 2008 10:52 AM GMT
    Just like when you have an injured hamstring or a spasm in your lower back
    muscles need to repair themselves
    you're right to avoid the cardio for now
    taping has been shown not to help anymore with this type of injury
    and it won't take as longas for a bone to heal but it will last a few weeks
    until then Ice Rest and anti-inflammatories
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    Jun 03, 2011 9:18 PM GMT
    Just had the same thing on my left side. Had a cough for about 3 weeks, and finally when the cough is gone, this gnawing left sided pain hits me when I stretch or turn my torso, or even just take a deep breath or clear my throat. It's even limiting my shoulder work (can't raise my shoulder without pain), and I might have to give my chest/back day a rest next week.

    I never took NSAIDs...until now.icon_cry.gif