Dear Ask The Doctor: Three weeks ago, specifically February 3rd, I was sitting in my parked car, with my seat belt on when I noticed a piece of paper on the floor on the passenger's side. Stupidly, I leaned over to grab the piece of paper when I felt a sharp pain in my right ribs. I didn't hear anything crack, but I was in a lot of pain and when I touched my ribs it felt swollen. When I got home, I applied ice hoping it would feel better in the morning. However, I was still in a lot of pain when I woke up. So I went to Urgent Care and the nurse practitioner said I probably strained my ribs an x-ray wouldn't really say anything and I need to apply heat and take pain medicine. She said I should be recovered in about three weeks. For the first week, I applied heat every night and took pain medication (Aleve) every morning. For some reason, I stopped the heat and the medication after a week. Now its been almost four weeks and I'm still in pain. Luckily, the pain has subsided a moderate amount. My ribs are not as swollen, and it doesn't hurt to cough, laugh, or sneeze as badly as it did before. So my question is, could this be more than a strain or is the recovery time just going to be longer than thought? Oh, and I'm a 22 year old female if that helps at all. Thanks.
Dear Meghan: Due to the extreme movement that you described most likely you are having now an Intercostal Neuritis. This is not a serious condition but very annoying indeed and slow healing. By a spasm or a direct trauma the intercostals muscles and nerves got injured, and that’s why you are feeling that stabbing pain every time you take a deep breath, sneeze or cough. The suggested strategy would be: please, try to be patient and do not expect an overnight improvement, take anti inflammatory medication (“Aleve”, “Motrin”), and also Vitamin B12 supplement. Local moist heat helps to ease the pain. Try to avoid activities that worsen the pain.