Intercostal Neuritis: could it be serious?


Q: About three weeks ago I lifted a full camping cooler to put it behind the truck. Once over my shoulder I felt this sharp pain in my upper back left side. I had trouble closing the back of the truck. Once I got in a took a breath and went ouch, sharp pain again. Some movements were making it worse, coughing was painful. My husband tried giving me a hug and I screamed. I could not sleep on my back or either side that night it was really painful. It got a bit better but it is still there. I can't sleep on my back and can't take any pressure on me if lying on my back or on my front. Sneezing, couching, deep breath are really painful. I always feel this pressure that goes from top to bottom or bottom to top on my left side, not quite under my arm but very close. Is it just a muscle spasm or does it have anything to do with my rib cage?


A:   According to your description of the events and the characteristics of the pain, most likely you may have a Post traumatic Intercostal Neuritis, which is not a serious condition but very annoying indeed and slow healing. By an spasm or a direct trauma the intercostals nerve 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.

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