How to Sleep with Intercostal Muscle Strain

How to Sleep with Intercostal Muscle Strain

Intercostal muscle strains can be extremely painful and make it difficult to get comfortable enough to sleep. The intercostal muscles are located between the ribs and help with breathing, so an injury here can significantly impact your ability to breathe deeply or cough without pain.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to improve your sleep with an intercostal muscle strain.

Understanding Intercostal Muscle Strains

An intercostal muscle strain refers to torn muscle fibers in between the ribs, usually caused by sudden overstretching or impact on the rib cage.

Common causes include prolonged coughing, heavy lifting, or overusing the core muscles during exercise. Symptoms include:

  • Sharp pain when breathing deeply, twisting the torso, or lying down
  • Tenderness between the ribs
  • Difficulty taking full breaths
  • Muscle spasms between the ribs

While mild muscle strains usually heal within a few weeks, recovery can be difficult without proper rest and care. Read on for tips to manage your pain and get better quality sleep while healing from this injury.

Sleeping Positions for Intercostal Strains

Sleeping with rib cage pain can be challenging. Lying horizontally puts pressure on strained intercostal tissues. However, the right sleeping position can take pressure off injured muscles to minimize discomfort.

1. Side Sleeping

The best sleeping position with an intercostal injury is on your back or the uninjured side. Sleeping on the affected side usually causes sharp pain when the body’s weight compresses the strained muscles.

If sleeping on your back causes discomfort, try placing a pillow under the rib cage for support and to limit strain placed on injured tissue. You can do the same if sleeping on the uninjured side.

Adjusting your body position regularly throughout the night also prevents unnecessary strain from staying too long in one position.

3. Avoid Stomach Sleeping

Sleeping on the stomach is not recommended for any musculoskeletal injury due to the excessive arching of the back. This position hyperextends the spine and adds pressure to your rib cage and front torso, which usually exacerbates intercostal pain.

3. Choosing the Best Mattress

Your mattress can impact how much pressure gets placed on injured ribs during sleep. The ideal mattress balances comfort with support. Soft mattresses conform to your body’s shape but lack structural support. This allows your torso to sink in too deeply, straining muscles around the ribs.

On the other hand, an overly firm mattress offers plenty of surface-level support but pushes sharply against the natural curvatures of your spine. This can also strain injured intercostal tissues.

A medium firm mattress with slight give offers a happy compromise. High-quality memory foam evenly distributes body weight to limit pressure on sore spots. Adjustable air beds allow you to alter the firmness level on each side for a customized experience.

woman relaxing on acupressure mat

Sleep Support Accessories

Specific accessories, like body pillows, can improve spinal alignment and limit discomfort while healing from rib injuries.

Body Pillows – Full-length body pillows align the spine and restrict excessive rolling during sleep. This provides structural support and ensures you don’t twist or compress injured rib tissues at night.

Back Brace – Wearing a tight compression band or back brace around the torso limits painful twisting motions involving the rib cage. This helps injured muscles stay properly supported.

Additional Tips for Comfortable Sleep

Here are some other helpful tips for getting restorative rest with an intercostal strain:

When to See a Doctor

See your doctor promptly if the pain worsens, doesn’t improve after 1-2 weeks of home treatment, or causes sharp chest pain, trouble breathing, fever, or unusual symptoms. These signal a more serious injury requiring medical care. Moderate intercostal strains usually heal within 3-8 weeks.

Let your body heal by giving injured muscles proper rest. Implementing the right sleeping positions and aids allows the strains to repair while staying comfortable. With patience and proper care, you can recover from this unpleasant injury.