Intercostal muscle strain is the injury affecting the muscles between the ribs. Such an injury can make sleeping painful. But, sleep doesn’t have to be painful even with an intercostal muscle strain.

Your intercostal muscles have different layers that are connected to the ribs. These muscles have a critical role in supporting twisting, bracing, respiration, and many other motions. As such, it can be an especially difficult injury to deal with, as it’s very easy to trigger sharp pain after injuring your intercostal muscles.

Is it possible to sleep with intercostal muscle strain?

This simple guide will provide you with some additional information about sleeping and coping with an intercostal muscle strain, including some wellness tips.

To sleep with intercostal muscle strain consider the following tips:

  • A relaxing magnesium or Epsom salt bath might help relieve the pain and help you sleep better.
  • You may be able to sleep better if you immobilize your ribs by wrapping your chest with bandages. The goal is to slightly compress your ribs. If you wrap your chest too tight, it may restrict your breathing. Wrapping is normally done after the first few days of the injury.
  • Using a cold pack might aid your sleep with an intercostal muscle tear.
  • Practicing slow deep breathing can be effective for better sleep, and it might also help to lower the risk of infections.

How to rest with intercostal muscle strain?

Even resting and sleeping can be hard with an intercostal muscle strain. Such injury can make getting in bed, getting out of bed, and even breathing deeply excruciatingly painful. Sadly, intercostal muscle pain is difficult to deal with. If your intercostal muscle strain isn’t severe, home treatment may be all that is required. You have to give time for your injured muscle to rest. Mild stretching and appropriate pain management from your physician can help.

What are the intercostal muscles?

The intercostal muscles are two layers of muscle fibers. These layered muscles are located between your ribs. Your intercostal muscles assist in breathing and support the integrity of the thoracic cage.

There are three sets of intercostal muscles that aid in the expansion and contraction of your ribcage.

  • Internal intercostal muscles
  • External intercostal muscles
  • Innermost intercostal muscles

Each set of intercostal muscle focuses on a different major function. In addition to assisting breathing, these muscles are also required for keeping the torso braced. The intercostal muscles can be strengthened through resistance training and stretching exercises.

Intercostal muscle strain is normally the result of:

  • A direct blow to the rib cage or back. Car accidents in which the ribs are forced apart are common causes of an intercostal muscle tear or strain.
  • Certain contact sports such as hockey, football, or martial arts may cause intercostal muscle strain.
  • Sudden twisting, reaching overhead, or excessive stretching can result in muscle strains.
  • Repeated forceful motions may overstretch or tear your intercostal muscles.

Symptoms of an intercostal muscle tear or strain may vary widely:

  • Severe chest pain when coughing, sneezing, or breathing.
  • Painful breathing, causing breathing to become shallow.
  • Stiffness in the back or ribs.
  • Pain when stretching, curling up, or twisting the rib cage.
  • Muscle swelling, soreness, discoloration,  or strain.

Some risk factors can also increase the risk of developing intercostal muscle strain, such as your age, flexibility, and strength of your muscles.

What does a strained intercostal muscle feel like?

The main symptom of a strained intercostal muscle is an ever-present sharp pain around the rib cage. Side twisting and bending, and deep breathing intensify the pain.

How to sleep with intercostal muscle strain?

  • Take a few minutes to perform a mild breathing exercise before bed.
  • Sleep on a reclining mattress and bed frame to help you rest while sitting upright.
  • Use pillows to keep you upright after you fall asleep.
  • Sleep on a specialized bed wedge to elevate your upper body.
  • Place a pillow under your knees to prevent upper back pain.

How to prevent intercostal pain during sleep?

The primary reason it is difficult to prevent general pain when suffering from intercostal muscle strain or a rib injury is that breathing alone can be extremely painful. The constant stretching and contracting of your intercostal muscles are unavoidable to keep breathing. You simply can’t stop breathing.

You can minimize intercostal pain if you keep the torso neutral and minimize twisting. Intercostal pain may also result in much shallower breathing to ease the pain. But shallow breathing could lead to other problems and potentially slow the healing process.

Ask your doctor to recommend some suitable breathing exercises and perform them as prescribed. Depending on the severity of your injury, your doctor may ask you to use a spirometer to monitor your own inhalation. This can help you avoid excessive shallow breathing. Depending on the level of your discomfort, your doctor may also recommend you apply pain relief to the injured area directly or over-the-counter medication.

Severe muscle strains may require corticosteroids and local anesthesia to reduce the swelling and decrease pain signals. When trying to rest, stay upright as much as possible. If you’re at home, you might want to invest in a bed wedge or a modified bed frame. It might be easier to fall asleep and stay asleep if you don’t have to lie down horizontally, which can worsen the pain (particularly when you have to get out of bed).

Do intercostal muscle strains get worse at night?

Pain seems to be more intense at night. When nothing distracts you, and you are trying to sleep, your intercostal muscle stain might bother you more than during the day. Interestingly, distractions serve as a type of painkiller. When you are lying in bed waiting to fall asleep, your muscle strain has all of your focus.

Also, if you are tired, you might hurt more. If you are unable to get adequate sleep, you might have exaggerated pain responses. Sleeping in a cold environment can also trigger pain.

How do you relax your intercostal muscles?

A great way to relax your intercostal muscles is to protect them from further injury. Allow your strained muscle to rest. Avoid activities that have to cause muscle tears. Refrain from any activity that causes you pain. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you should avoid movement. Movement can be a great way to relax your intercostal muscles. When people get up and move around a bit often feel less pain.

You can ice the muscle area for about twenty minutes each hour you are awake. Ice is a natural pain reliever and a powerful anti-inflammatory. Small ice packs applied to your rib cage may help decrease inflammation. Always protect your skin from ice or heat with a protective covering such as a towel.

To provide support and decrease swelling, apply compression with an elastic bandage. Don’t wrap it too tightly to avoid cutting off circulation.

Sleeping in with an elevated upper body can help decrease the swelling. Avoid all activities that may be painful or further injure your intercostal muscles.

How to live and copy with intercostal muscle strain?

Depending on your intercostal muscle strain’s severity, your doctor or physical therapist may ask you to perform low-intensity exercises to help the muscle heal. Simple breathing exercises and overhead stretches are common activities recommended for muscle strains.

While exercising when you are in pain sounds counterintuitive, it helps find the sweet spot between total bed rest and high-impact exercise when helping intercostal muscles heal. This method is called “active recovery.” It can help recover from minor injuries and tears, promoting proper healing and faster muscle recovery.

Your physician may also prescribe pain-relieving ointments or heat therapy. Discuss coping and pain relief strategies with your doctor. More severe muscle strains may warrant more medication and rest, however, and other pain management practices.

Do NOT attempt to self-diagnose intercostal muscle strain!

There is no alternative for seeking the advice of a trained medical professional. If you have intercostal muscle strain symptoms, see a professional. Trying to self-diagnose could result in incorrect treatment, further injury, or extended recovery.

Unless your doctor has confirmed that you have an intercostal muscle strain, you simply can’t be sure. Different degrees of muscle strains and tears require corresponding treatment.