How to Sleep With Intercostal Muscle Strain

Dealing with an intercostal muscle strain injury can be extremely troublesome, especially when trying to get a good night’s rest. However, adequate sleep and rest are crucial aspects of the healing process.

In this blog article, we provide tips on how to sleep comfortably with intercostal muscle strains along with an overview of the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options for these painful rib injuries.

What Are the Intercostal Muscles?

The intercostal muscles are several thin muscle tissues that are located between each rib. There are two sets – the external intercostals that aid in breathing by lifting the ribcage and the inner intercostals that help lower the ribcage during exhaling. These muscles play a vital role in supporting the chest wall and enabling proper lung expansion for breathing.

What Is Intercostal Muscle Strain?

An intercostal muscle strain refers to an injury to these muscles due to overstretching or tears to the muscle tissues. It occurs when the muscles are subjected to excessive or awkward motions like intense coughing, rigorous exercise or trauma to the chest.

The symptoms are mainly focused along the ribs or chest and may vary in intensity depending on the severity of the strain.

Common Causes of Intercostal Strains

There are several ways you can develop an intercostal strain:

  • Sudden, forceful motions – Heavy lifting, intense physical exercise or sports can strain the intercostal tissues.
  • Repetitive stress – Certain occupations require repetitive rib movements that can irritate these muscles over time.
  • Severe coughing – Heavy coughing utilizes these muscles extensively, increasing chances of muscular tears.
  • Direct blows – Accidents, trauma or falls directly impacting the chest may damage the intercostals.
  • Poor posture – Slouching for extended time periods can strain the chest and ribs.
  • Pre-existing conditions – Sometimes underlying medical issues may also contribute.

Symptoms of Intercostal Strain

The most common signs pointing to an intercostal muscle strain include:

  • Sharp pain along the ribs, sides or breastbone area
  • Muscle spasms, cramping or stiffness around chest
  • Difficulty taking deep breaths; pain worsens with breathing
  • Increased discomfort when coughing, sneezing or twisting
  • Chest bruising, inflammation or swelling
  • Tenderness directly over the affected muscles

sleep disturbance with back pain

When to See a Doctor

It is highly recommended to consult a physician after sustaining any chest injury to determine the exact cause and severity. Seek prompt medical care if you experience any alarming symptoms such as difficulty breathing, worsening pain, rib deformities etc along with the above-mentioned signs.

Diagnosing Intercostal Strains

Doctors utilize various diagnostic techniques to evaluate intercostal strains:

  • Medical history and visual/physical examination of the chest.
  • Palpating the painful area to pinpoint the origin.
  • Imaging tests like X-rays, CT scans or MRI to visualize muscle damage.
  • Assessing range of motion and breathing capabilities.
  • Ruling out rib fractures or other chest injuries/disorders.

Treatment Options

The treatment plan will depend on factors like extent of muscle damage, cause and symptoms severity. The main goals focus on alleviating pain and facilitating healing. Common options include:

Rest: Restrict strenuous physical activities to prevent re-injury especially in the early stages.

Ice/Heat: Use ice packs to relieve pain and inflammation. Heat aids relaxation.

OTC Medication – Anti-inflammatory and pain relief medications like ibuprofen help in pain management when taken as advised.

Stretching/Strengthening Exercises – Slowly work on regaining muscle flexibility and strength under expert guidance.

Physical Therapy Modalities – Ultrasound, massage, taping techniques accelerate natural recovery.

Surgical Intervention – Only required in extreme unresolved cases to repair torn muscles.

woman sleeping with pain

How to Sleep Comfortably with Intercostal Strains

The quality of sleep plays a huge role in coping with discomfort and promoting healing when dealing with annoying intercostal strains. Follow these useful sleeping tips:

Find an Optimal Sleeping Position

Lying on the injured side may aggravate pain. Experiment with these positions:

  • Sleep propped up – Use pillows for inclination to ease breathing.
  • Recliner chairs – Keep your upper body slightly elevated.
  • Back or non-injured side sleeping – Place pillows for support.
  • Use a body pillow for cushioning the whole torso comfortably.

Adjust Support Pillows Strategically

Adding pillows takes pressure off injured muscles:

  • Under rib cage / waist to immobilize area
  • Between knees maintains spine alignment
  • Propped under shoulders aids incline position
  • Small one pressed to injured side while side sleeping

Practice Relaxation Techniques

Incorporating relaxation methods helps in falling asleep faster by alleviating anxiety/discomfort:

  • Listen to soothing music
  • Try mindful breathing exercises
  • Use aromatherapy with calming scents
  • Take warm showers/baths before bed
  • Get massages focusing on shoulders, upper back
  • Drink herbal teas with sleep-promoting properties

Adopt Smart Sleeping Habits

Establishing healthy sleep routines makes a big impact over time:

  • Maintain fixed, consistent sleep timings
  • Limit afternoon naps to only when extremely fatigued
  • Ensure your sleep environment is cool, quiet and comfortable
  • Write down thoughts on paper before bed to clear anxiety

When to Call the Doctor

Consult your physician promptly if you notice:

  • Rapid worsening of symptoms
  • Persistent problems sleeping
  • Signs of complications or infections
  • Overwhelming pain not controlled by home care
  • Difficulties breathing

Your doctor will adjust treatment plans accordingly or provide medical-grade pain relief aids able to offer superior respite at night.

In Conclusion

Getting adequate sleep is pivotal for recuperation from annoying intercostal strains. Experiment with different positions, pillow placements and relaxation techniques to discover what works optimally for you. Implementing healthy sleep habits also promotes overall wellbeing. However, keep your doctor updated on your progress. With some perseverance, you will soon bid farewell to sleepless, painful nights and recover faster!